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Global Trends in Sustainability Performance Management

Many factors are driving the current momentum for sustainable corporate performance. Companies themselves understand the many benefits of sustainable operations, and now respond to a wider range of stakeholders who demand new forms of accountability.

This paper examines the new world of sustainability reporting, and the complex web of stakeholders— governments, customers, NGOs, employees, suppliers and even the companies themselves. It focuses, in particular, on the demands for new kinds of transparency. As a result, benchmarks of corporate performance are changing drastically. Cap-and-trade programs, for example, are already forcing new emission limits in Europe, with similar programs nearing completion in other developed countries. Emerging-market governments are racing to adopt their own social-responsibility guidelines.  Assurance standards such as AA1000, ISAE300 and ISO14063 all contribute to improving the quality of reporting through independent audit. Industries, either on their own or under pressure from the outside, are developing global performance indicators as part of their corporate sustainability strategies. The development of these internal processes and metrics align with the overall goal of value creation for the fi rm—achieving workforce excellence and responding appropriately to investor demand and consumer preferences.

As the consumers of sustainability reporting move from activists and political groups to shareholders and investors, much is at stake. Chief operating officers and other board members now join CEOs in devising a core sustainability strategy—and the financial reporting designed to support it. Companies themselves understand the need to move sustainability reporting beyond a simple statement in their annual reports to a more detailed assessment of their operations, management practices, workforce issues and development strategies. A fully integrated, company-wide approach will be needed to realize the benefits.

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