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Building a Frame of Reference: The Importance of Sustainability Context

Measurement without context is essentially meaningless; without benchmarks against which to compare, all the data in the world won’t give us a useful picture of what’s being measured. Enter the notion of sustainability context. 

Analyzing sustainability context refers to the process of understanding what critical environmental and social thresholds an organization’s respective impacts must meet in order to be sustainable. In layman's terms, this means finding an organization’s fair share of total environmental and social impacts, given the context of total resource availability and other users of those resources. In a Q&A with Strategic Sustainability Consulting in May, Mark McElroy, Founder & Executive Director of the Center for Sustainable Organizations, explains the logic behind sustainability context: “In the absence of context, there is no way to tell whether or not an organization’s impacts on vital resources in the world are above, below or at levels required to ensure their sufficiency or continued existence. Even dramatically improved levels of eco-efficiency might still be unsustainable – without making thresholds explicit, there is simply no way to tell. Unless such context is taken into account when attempting to measure, manage or report the sustainability performance of a company, sustainability management cannot be effective.”

Join us on Friday morning, September 28, as a distinguished panel of experts discusses the importance of Standardizing Sustainability Context. Moderated by Mark McElroy, this session will illustrate the urgent need the corporate world to understand, adopt and standardize its use of sustainability context, in order to improve reporting and management practices. The panel will share the latest relevant developments through the Global Initiative for Sustainability Ratings (GISR), the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), as well as case examples, existing tools, practical advice and interactive discussion. 


(L-R): Mark McElroy, Lisa French Bill Baue

Bill Baue, Advisory Council, Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)

Lisa French, Head of External Relations (Americas), International Internal Reporting Council (IIRC) 

Mark Tulay, Program and Business Development Executive, Global Initiative for Sustainability Ratings (GISR)

Mike Wallace, Director, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) 


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