In an era when environmental concerns are at the forefront of global discussions, businesses are being called upon to integrate sustainability into their operations. Developed as an extension of the traditional Balanced Scorecard (BSC), the Sustainability Balanced Scorecard (SBSC) aims to provide businesses with a tool to align their environmental, social, and economic objectives, driving positive impact while ensuring long-term success.
The genesis of the SBSC
The concept of the BSC was first introduced by Robert Kaplan and David Norton in the early 1990s as a framework to measure business performance beyond financial metrics. The BSC aimed to provide a more holistic view of an organization’s health by incorporating four hierarchical perspectives: Financial, Customer, Internal Processes, and Learning & Growth.
A decade later, as sustainability became a critical global concern, scholars started looking into the possibility of integrating sustainability considerations into the BSC. They agreed on the potential of extending the focus of the well-established BSC to include measuring business performance through the lens of environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and ethics. Thus, the concept of the SBSC began to crystallize .
How to build an SBSC
When it comes to the best architecture for the SBSC, there have been conflicting discussions ever since the concept was introduced. Two major approaches took prominence: one is to add a fifth perspective to the traditional BSC that was dedicated to sustainability; the other is to integrate sustainability objectives and KPIs into the already existing perspectives.
A 2009 study showed that in the fifth perspective approach, sustainability KPIs tend to be overlooked by management in organizations with no established sustainability culture. That is why the four-perspective approach can be a safer choice, especially for organizations that are only starting to integrate sustainability in their measures.
In a 2021 article, Kaplan supported the four-perspective approach, introducing a suggested restructuring of three out of the four perspectives to make them more relevant to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) elements:
- From “Financial” to “Outcomes” to include environmental and societal objectives besides the financial aspect
- From “Customer” to “Stakeholder” to reflect the value of different members of the whole ecosystem
- From “Learning & Growth” to “Enablers” to encompass the various capabilities across all stakeholders in the ecosystem
Reaping these sustainability integration benefits can be a bit of a long shot, and further studies are needed to prove such benefits even exist. However, the only way to reap said benefits is to plant the seeds of sustainability integration. To help accomplish this, the SBSC can be a potent tool that allows organizations to measure, manage, and optimize their sustainability performance. As global challenges such as climate change, resource depletion, and social inequality loom larger, businesses must go beyond profits and consider their broader impact. The SBSC empowers organizations to embrace sustainability as a strategic imperative, paving the way for a more responsible, resilient, and prosperous future.
For more on utilizing the Balanced Scorecard, The KPI Institute has developed the Certified Balanced Scorecard Management System Professional to help organizations maximize the tools’ potential. And if you are interested in expanding your toolkit further, consider subscribing to smartkpis.com and gain access to the world’s largest database of documented KPIs, which includes a thorough collection of sustainability metrics.
Corporate sustainability (CS) represents a business approach that creates long-term shareholder value by embracing opportunities and managing risks derived from economic, environmental, and social developments, Yale University states. Organizations are increasingly realizing that their long-term success and profitability depend on measuring the financial impact of CS initiatives for several reasons: enhanced risk management, increased cost efficiency, greater investor demand, and improved brand reputation—ideas that were highlighted in a 2022 paper from the International Journal of Economics and Management.
The NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business developed the Return on Sustainable Investment (ROSI™) framework as a methodology used to evaluate the financial performance and returns generated from sustainability initiatives. It aims to measure the economic benefits derived from sustainability investments and assess the value created for the organization.
ROSI™ assists decision-making processes, resource allocation, and the prioritization of sustainability investments based on their potential financial returns. The framework also facilitates communication with stakeholders (i.e. investors, customers, and employees) by quantifying the financial value created through sustainable practices. The sustainability drivers of financial performance and competitive advantage based on ROSI™ methodology can be consulted below (see Figure 1).
Entities need to follow a clear set of steps to implement the ROSI™ methodology, per The NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business:
- Identify material sustainability practices.
- Determine the potential benefits that might drive financial and societal value from sustainability-focused practices.
- Quantify benefits derived from the sustainability practices.
- Derive a monetary value for the benefits.
The main advantage that ROSI™ brings is helping companies make a compelling business case for sustainability, driving both financial value and positive societal impact while advancing sustainability goals, as NYU Stern concludes in a report published in 2021.
HSBC Bank USA and the NYU Stern Center have launched the Food and Agriculture Sustainability Strategies Framework, based on ROSI™ to help food and agriculture companies make a business case for sustainable initiatives that deliver financial value and societal impact. The framework identifies twelve sustainable strategies and describes practical suggestions for calculating returns. It serves as a strategic tool for unlocking the advantages of sustainability and driving real change in the industry.
According to Forbes—and adapted to adhere to The KPI Institute’s KPI naming standards—% Return on investment (% ROI) is a KPI that measures the efficiency or profitability of an investment or compares the efficiency of several different investments. This metric is also used to measure and evaluate the financial impact of organizational sustainability initiatives, making it easier to understand the value proposition of certain environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria used in socially responsible investing. A positive % ROI score indicates a profitable outcome, as the gains generated from the investment exceed the costs incurred (see Figure 2).
An article from Brightest presented findings based on data gathered between 2020 – 2023 from five top companies that measure the ROI of sustainability. It stated that companies like HP Inc. ($3.5B), Unilever ($1.2B), McKesson ($227M), Nike ($50M), Anheuser-Busch ($7.5M), and Medtronic ($2.2M) earned extensive profit from internal cost savings actions based on sustainability criteria like energy efficiency or waste reducing. By demonstrating the financial value of sustainable practices, % ROI enhances the business case for social investment and encourages stronger ESG administration, balancing monetary performance with social and environmental impact.
ROSI™ and % ROI are valuable tools for measuring the financial impact of sustainability initiatives. ROSI™ goes beyond traditional metrics, helping companies understand the value of sustainability strategies. Meanwhile, % ROI quantifies the fiscal returns generated, enabling data-driven decision-making. Together, they support making informed choices, practicing accountability, and leaving behind a positive environmental and societal impact while delivering long-term financial value.
Nowadays, with mounting pressure on businesses to be accountable for their environmental and social impact, it is no longer optional but expected for them to develop and implement sustainable business strategies that play out across three key areas: Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG). This pressure comes from rising public awareness, tightening regulations, and increased expectations from customers, employees, and investors.
Stakeholder engagement plays a significant role in the successful implementation of ESG strategies. In this article, let’s explore its functions and effects on ESG strategies.
The power of stakeholder engagement
Stakeholders are individuals, groups, or organizations that can influence or are affected by a company’s strategy from within and outside the organization. They can either drive change or resist it. Therefore, it is critical to identify stakeholders and understand their needs and expectations to ensure the ESG agenda reflects the priorities of those who matter and support the strategy’s long-term success.
Pay Governance LLC, a firm that provides independent advice on executive compensation matters, has developed the Stakeholder Value Creation Chain model (See Figure 1) to better understand the effects of stakeholder engagement on the economic success of a business. It demonstrates how ESG strategy, the stakeholder model, and the generation of corporate value all intersect to provide various advantages for corporations.
Engaging with stakeholders during the strategy execution phase allows companies to foster collaboration, build trust and confidence, encourage support for ESG actions, evaluate how the actions are perceived, mitigate potential risks, and improve decision-making.
To know more about ESG strategy and how it exactly boosts stakeholder engagement based on a report, read the full article in the PERFORMANCE Magazine Issue No. 25 – Sustainability Edition. You can download a free digital copy through the TKI Marketplace. Printed copies are also available on Amazon. But the price may vary depending on location.
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) will introduce new sustainability reporting standards focusing on the mining and textile and apparel industries as part of the GRI Sector Program. The move follows the approval by the Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB), the independent body responsible for GRI Standards.
The GRI Sector Standard for Mining covers the impacts of mining organizations on environmental, social, and economic aspects. It is consistent with the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) and disclosure frameworks used in the sector. Judy Kuszewski, Chair of the GSSB, told MINING.com that the standard includes metrics that reflect the information required by stakeholders and emphasizes the duties of mining organizations concerning smaller entities and their involvement in the supply chain. This standard will be published in Q3 2023.
Meanwhile, the GRI Textiles and Apparel Standard aims to guide clothing, footwear, fabrics, and other textile manufacturers and retailers on sustainability reporting by setting global best practices. The GRI identified this sector as another top priority due to its adverse effects on the environment and concerns related to labor and human rights. This standard is set for release in Q1 2025.
The GRI Sector Program will produce standards for 40 sectors, prioritizing those with the highest impact on the environment. The Sector Standards “describe the sustainability context for a sector, outline organizations’ likely material topics based on the sector’s most significant impacts, and list disclosures that are relevant for the sector to report on.” For more information, visit https://www.globalreporting.org/standards/sector-program/
Learn more about sustainability reporting through our cover story featuring Eelco van der Enden, the CEO of the Global Reporting Initiative, on PERFORMANCE Magazine Issue No. 25, 2023 – Sustainability Edition. Download a free digital copy through the TKI Marketplace. Printed copies are also available through Amazon (The price may vary depending on location).
Achieving sustainability is challenging for businesses because it requires significant resources, stakeholder cooperation, and change throughout the supply chain. Justin Jia Kai Goh, the Director of Sustainability Services at Accenture, offers practical measures that organizations can adopt to usher in a sustainable future.