Corporate sustainability


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Corporate sustainability

  1. 1. The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at IMS approach An integrated management to corporate systems approach to corporate sustainability sustainability 353 Muhammad Asif School of Management and Governance, Received May 2010 University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands Revised June 2010 Accepted July 2010 Cory Searcy Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada Ambika Zutshi School of Management and Marketing, Deakin University, Burwood, Australia, and Niaz Ahmad National Textile University, Faisalabad, PakistanAbstractPurpose – This paper seeks to describe an integrated management systems (IMS) approach for theintegration of corporate sustainability into business processes.Design/methodology/approach – An extensive review of published literature was conducted.Building on existing research, the paper presents an original framework for structuring the integrationof corporate sustainability with existing business infrastructure. The framework is supported by adetailed set of diagnostic questions to help guide the process. Both the framework and the diagnosticquestions are based on the “Plan-Do-Check-Act” cycle of continuous improvement.Findings – The paper highlights the need for a systematic means to integrate sustainability intobusiness processes. Building on that point, the paper illustrates how an IMS approach can be used tostructure the entire process of managing, measuring, and assessing progress towards corporatesustainability.Practical implications – The paper should be of interest to both practitioners and researchers. Theframework and diagnostic questions will help guide decision makers through the process of buildingsustainability into their core business infrastructure. Since the framework and diagnostic questionsprovide the flexibility to accommodate specific organizational contexts, it is anticipated that they willhave wide applicability.Originality/value – The paper makes several contributions. The framework provides a systematicapproach to corporate sustainability that has not been elaborated on in previous publications. Theunique set of diagnostic questions provides a means to evaluate the extent to which corporatesustainability has been integrated into an organization.Keywords Integrated management systems, Management systems, Corporate sustainability,Stakeholders, Corporate strategyPaper type Conceptual paper European Business Review Vol. 23 No. 4, 2011 pp. 353-367 q Emerald Group Publishing LimitedThe authors’ thanks are due to the Editor and reviewers for their valuable comments on earlier 0955-534Xdrafts of this article. DOI 10.1108/09555341111145744
  2. 2. EBR 1. Corporate sustainability23,4 Managers in many corporations are under increasing pressure to address the issue of sustainability. From a corporate perspective, sustainability encompasses economic, environmental and social issues that have business implications. Corporate sustainability has its theoretical roots in stakeholder theory. Stakeholder theory recognizes that organizations have obligations not only to shareholders, but also to other354 interest groups such as customers, suppliers, employees and the wider community, amongst many others (Freeman, 1984). Meeting the demands of these stakeholders is necessary for a variety of reasons, including sustaining a continued supply of resources and for legitimation reasons (DiMaggio and Powell, 1983; Suchman, 1995). Any approach to corporate sustainability must, therefore, have an explicit focus on stakeholder requirements. As Seuring and Muller (2008) highlight, early conceptualizations of sustainability had a relatively narrow focus on environmental protection. In recent years, however, there has been growing recognition that environmental protection is only a sub-set of corporate sustainability. As Hart (1997, p. 133) explains: Those who think that sustainability is only a matter of pollution control, are missing the big picture [. . .] focusing on sustainability requires putting business strategies to a new test, taking the entire planet as the context in which they do business. Similarly, Dyllick and Hockerts (2002) pointed out that a myopic interpretation of the term “sustainability” misses several important criteria which organizations have to fulfill in order to be sustainable. Corporate sustainability is now widely conceptualized in terms of the “triple bottom line” (TBL) (Elkington, 1999). In short, this means that organizations need to explicitly consider the environmental, economic and social impacts (positive and negative) of their activities (Edgeman, 1998; Edgeman and Hensler, 2001; Hediger, 1999). This concept is also symbolized in literature by “triple P (planet, people, and profit)” which implies that a company creates more value over the long run and encounters fewer risks if it takes into consideration the environmental (planet), social (people), and financial issues (profit) as compared to a company that focuses merely on the profit (Asif et al., 2008; Dyllick and Hockerts, 2002; Holliday, 2001; Salzmann et al., 2005; Shrivastava, 1995). Moreover, the outcomes from the various impacts need to be addressed simultaneously and in an integrated manner for a sustainable competitive advantage. This concept of sustainability is shown in Figure 1. The figure illustrates three key concepts. First, it shows that earlier conceptualizations of sustainability had environmental connotations and thus presented a narrow view of the concept. Second, the figure highlights that sustainability is frequently discussed in the literature using the terms “triple P” and “TBL”. These are essentially two different perspectives on the same concept. Finally, Figure 1 shows that sustainability is a critical aspect of overall business continuity. Corporate sustainability heavily emphasizes the need to meet key stakeholder requirements in a systematic manner. This in turn provides the organization with legitimacy and a license to continue its business. The stakeholder perspective is further discussed later in the paper. Corporate sustainability is a dynamic concept and the specific environmental, economic, and social aspects and priorities that an organization focuses on will continually change. This can be attributed to three main reasons. The first is the influence of internal and external environmental factors on the organization’s resources.
  3. 3. IMS approach Environmental considerations to corporate (the old concept) sustainability Triple P Corporate Triple bottom line (economic, social, and 355 (people, planet, and sustainability profit) environmental) Stakeholder Stakeholder Business continuity feedback Figure 1. feedback (legitimacy / license The concept to operate) of sustainabilityThese could include changes in government regulations, the political environment, theemergence of a new competitor or even a change in the senior management team. Second,the legitimacy, urgency, and power of the organization’s key stakeholders arecontinuously changing (Mitchell et al., 1997). Third, the complexity of businessoperations has dramatically increased over time. Organizations now face diversechallenges, both anticipated and unanticipated, such as rapidly changing marketconditions, coordination of operations at a global level, and an increased reliance onoutsourcing. Addressing the challenges of corporate sustainability, therefore, requires aflexible approach in which organizations continuously scan their environment toproactively identify priority issues so that their business strategies can be adaptedaccordingly. In other words, the dynamic concept of sustainability requiresorganizations to develop the capacity to continuously address emerging issues. In recognition of these challenges, a number of management systems (MSs) haveemerged to help managers systematically address an organization’s key stakeholderrequirements. Examples include MSs for environment, corporate social responsibility,quality, and occupational health and safety. Given their focus on methodicallyaddressing stakeholder requirements, these MSs provide interesting leverage points forintegrating sustainability issues into mainstream business processes. There is,nevertheless, a need to explore how organizations can capitalize on their experience withstandardized MSs to more systematically integrate sustainability issues throughout theorganization, and to assess the success or failure of the integration efforts. This paper contributes towards filling this gap by presenting an integratedmanagement systems (IMS) approach to corporate sustainability. The paper adopts anexplicitly multidisciplinary approach to sustainability integration and contributes totheory and practice in two ways. First, it presents a framework to integratesustainability with business processes. The framework is based on the PDCA cycle ofcontinuous improvement. Second, the paper presents a structured set of diagnosticquestions to evaluate the extent of integration. Together, the framework and diagnosticquestions promote the vertical and horizontal integration of sustainability intomainstream business infrastructure. The remainder of the paper is organized into threesections. Section 2 presents an overview of the literature on corporate sustainability andthe integration of MSs. Section 3 presents the conceptual framework, which provides
  4. 4. EBR the basis for structuring management, measurement, and assessment efforts associated23,4 with corporate sustainability and its integration with corporate infrastructure. The paper concludes with a brief summary and a discussion of areas for future research. 2. Snapshot of corporate sustainability literature The literature on sustainability is widely dispersed. As a starting point, Glavic and356 Lukman (2007) present a useful overview of terms and definitions related to sustainability. Many publications have explored the notion of corporate sustainability such as Bansal (2005), Bansal and Roth (2000), Bhattacharyya (2010), Isaksson (2006), Pojasek (2007), Shrivastava (1995), Silberhorn and Warren (2007) and Stainer and Stainer (1997). The business case for corporate sustainability has also been widely discussed by a number authors, including Dyllick and Hockerts (2002), Seuring and Muller (2008), Salzmann et al. (2005) and Weber (2008). Beyond the above-mentioned publications, several authors have focused on addressing specific aspects of corporate sustainability. For example, in discussing the strategic and stakeholder-oriented management of sustainability, Huff et al. (2009) and Solomon (2010) emphasized the need for strong corporate governance and accountability infrastructure to institutionalize the concept. Other representative examples from the literature include operationalization of the concept of corporate sustainability (Bansal, 2005), Du Pont’s model of sustainability (Holliday, 2001), integrating sustainability with existing business processes (Garvare and Isaksson, 2001), integrating sustainability into the supply chain (Linton et al., 2007) and a description of tools to facilitate the achievement of sustainability goals (Pojasek, 2007). The literature has provided an enhanced understanding of approaches to sustainability and a foundation on which future research needs to be based. However, work remains in several areas, particularly in determining how to go beyond tools and techniques to develop organization-wide sustainability. Sustainability must become a critical aspect of mainstream business MS. The measurement of corporate sustainability has been the focus of numerous papers, including Adams and Frost (2006), Isaksson and Garvare (2003), Keeble et al. (2003), Labuschagne et al. (2005), Searcy et al. (2007) and Searcy (2009). The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI, 2006) also provides a recommended framework for organizations interested in reporting on their sustainability performance. However, despite the wide-ranging measures and tools available for organizations and their stakeholders to understand, implement and maintain elements of sustainability, the question remains on how to integrate sustainability into the day-to-day operations of organizations through their integration with mainstream business MSs. Smith and Lenssen (2009) and Searcy et al. (2006) have suggested that the case for sustainability is strong when it is integrated with mainstream business processes. While the existing literature on sustainability does provide a theoretical foundation, it does not provide the guidance needed to integrate the sustainability concept into business processes (Rocha et al., 2007). Work, thus, is required to develop a framework to facilitate the integration of sustainability with core business strategies and processes. For insights into how such a framework may be approached, research on IMS is instructive. To cater to the needs of different stakeholders, organizations employ individual MSs such as those covering the areas of environment, corporate social responsibility, quality, and occupational health and safety. As the number
  5. 5. of independent MSs grow within an organization, there is a need to integrate them into an IMS approachoverall business MS to facilitate understanding, improve usability, and minimize to corporateredundancies. An IMS gives rise to the structures and processes that facilitate theintegration of MSs and their associated stakeholder expectations and requirements into sustainabilitybusiness processes. With that in mind, an IMS is conceptualized as a set of inter-connectedprocesses that share the same human, material, information, infrastructural, and financialresources in order to achieve a composite set of goals (Karapetrovic, 2003). An important 357feature of an IMS is the development of an infrastructure for integrated continuousimprovement along various dimensions of strategy and operations. For a furtherdiscussion of IMS, the interested reader is referred to Asif et al. (2009), Rocha et al. (2007),Karapetrovic (2003), Wilkinson and Dale (1999) and Zutshi and Sohal (2005). The integration of MSs and corporate sustainability decisions are driven bystakeholder pressure and requirements. An essential feature of both is to designbusiness processes in a way that yields value for the stakeholders and balances it withthe organizational vision, goals, strategies, and resources. Given the inherent similaritiesin terms of focus, organizations ideally should be able to address both in a synergisticmanner. This is particularly important because the focus of sustainability is on thedesign of business processes that yield value along social, ecological, and economicdimensions. An IMS could provide the necessary governance mechanism andinfrastructure for sustainable processes, continuous improvement of those processes,and could also embed sustainable processes in the social, technical, and behavioral sideof the enterprise. However, the literature on the integration of sustainability intobusiness processes through IMS is limited. The key reason is because the research onIMS is emerging (Karapetrovic, 2002; Karapetrovic and Jonker, 2003). Furthermore, theconcept of corporate sustainability (Shrivastava, 1995; Welford and Gouldson, 1993;Wood and Logsdon, 2001) is also emerging. The relatively limited literature onsustainability through integration of MSs is summarized in Table I. The publicationslisted in the table describe the essentials of integrating sustainability into businessprocesses. However, work in this area is in its embryonic stages and additional researchis required. There is a need to extend the existing research and to develop a frameworkto support the integration of sustainability throughout the entire organization.The following section contributes to this need.Author Main themeRocha et al. (2007) Integration of MSs could provide a framework for integrating corporate sustainable development into business processes Integration of sustainable development needs to be considered from both a micro and macro perspective in order to ensure its effectivenessJørgensen (2008) Integration of MSs could pave the way for sustainable development Organizations need to carry out integration at three levels – correspondence, generic, and integrationOskarsson and Malmborg (2005) Integration of MSs provides a necessary roadmap for sustainable Table I. development A summary of theFresner and Engelhardt (2004) Corporate sustainability could be achieved in a stepwise approach literature on corporate consisting of cleaner production followed by integration of MSs and sustainability through sustainable product service design integration of MSs
  6. 6. EBR 3. The conceptual framework23,4 The integration of sustainability into business processes can be facilitated through an IMS approach. Such an approach provides both the flexibility and clarity needed to address the many issues associated with the management, measurement, and assessment of corporate sustainability. Building on that premise, a conceptual framework for corporate sustainability through the integration of MSs is shown in358 Figure 2. The framework builds on previous research conducted by: . Mitchell et al. (1997) who described a typology of stakeholders in relation to their requirements; . Choo (1996), Daft and Weick (1984) and Weick (1987) who elaborated on environmental scanning to provide an informed understanding of the environment in which an organization operates; and . Asif et al. (2009), Jørgensen (2008) and Zeng et al. (2007) who highlighted various levels of integration and how integration alters activities at each organizational level. The framework also builds upon the research of: . Rocha et al. (2007) by considering various perspectives on corporate sustainability integration; and . Fresner and Engelhardt (2004) and Oskarsson and Malmborg (2005) by providing an integrated use of MSs to address key stakeholder requirements. As Figure 2 shows, the process of integrating sustainability starts with the identification of key stakeholders and their requirements. Unarguably, organizations are under pressure from a wide variety of primary and secondary stakeholders. A detailed environmental scan, including an assessment of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats and a stakeholder analysis, can assist a manager in determining what Plan Do Check Stakeholder requirements MSs to address (To determine the urgency, legitimacy, and stakeholder Integrated MS Economic Quality power of stakeholder requirements) requirements • Corporate governance Sustainable business processes and strategy Environmental scanning Environment QMS • Integrated objectives Enacting • Integrated manuals responsibly EMS Systemization of • Integrated procedures Ecological Employees stakeholder • Structures (integrated health & safety OH & S demands functions, audits, and (integration of MSs) trainings) Financial • Integrated processes probity SA • CI infrastructure Transparency • Routines Social Others • Integrated reviewsFigure 2. OtherThe framework for requirements Act (innovation and learning)corporate sustainabledevelopment throughan IMS approach Notes: MS, management system(s); QMS, quality MS; EMS, environmental MS; OH&S, occupational health and safety; SA, social accountability; CI, continuous improvement
  7. 7. is important, what is not, and the level of urgency and priority to be given to various IMS approachissues. It is particularly noteworthy to identify the legitimacy and urgency of to corporatestakeholder demands, as well as the relative power (and potential conflict) of thedifferent stakeholders to influence the business, given that they (the legitimacy, urgency, sustainabilityand power of stakeholders) change over time. Environmental scanning is, thus,a mechanism for identifying key stakeholder demands and prioritizing them within aframework of constrained resources. Building on the environmental scan, organizations 359make sense of their surroundings and also develop the appropriate context foradaptation and response (Choo, 1996). Figure 2 also shows that organizations may deploy a number of different MSs to meetkey stakeholder requirements. These MSs guide the behavior of a system and thusprovide a systematic way to execute a function consistently over a period of time.Among the most prominent of the standardized MSs are the ISO standards for qualitymanagement (ISO 9001), environmental management (ISO 14001), customer satisfactionand complaints systems (ISO 10001, 10002, 10003), and quality and environmentalauditing (ISO 19011). Managers could choose implementation and external, independentcertification of internal MSs depending upon stakeholder demands. However, onepotential consequence of implementing a number of individual MSs is that it could giverise to competing priorities, confusion, and mutual incompatibilities (McDonald et al.,2003; Salomone, 2008; Wilkinson and Dale, 2001; Zeng et al., 2007). This highlights theneed and benefit of integration to bring the disparate MSs into mainstream businessprocesses. The essential feature of an IMS is that it develops an integrated system toaddress stakeholder demands in a systematic manner. This is labeled as “systemizationof stakeholder demands” in Figure 2. Integration transforms the organization through a number of fundamental changesat the strategic, tactical, and operational levels. For instance, at the strategic level,it provides a mechanism for increased interaction with stakeholders and, thus, apathway to address their demands through channeling organizational resources. At thetactical level, it focuses on the design of an integrated management manual, procedures,and processes, and on developing the criteria and norms by which integration could beevaluated. At the operational level, the work instructions and work activities areintegrated. Supporting activities such as auditing and general administration are alsodesigned accordingly in order to promote efficiency, save resources, and reduceconfusion amongst employees at the operational level. Figure 2 also shows that learning and innovation along the various dimensions ofsustainability is required for continuous improvement. At its core, there is a need toconsolidate sustainability experiences into organizational processes. New knowledgeneeds to be integrated with both the explicit and tacit knowledge of the corporation.Integration with explicit knowledge will focus on manuals, procedures, databases,work instructions, and other key documents. Integration with tacit knowledge willfocus on employees’ experiences and skills. The integration of new knowledge andnovel experiences will help better prepare the organization to address the anticipatedand unanticipated challenges associated with corporate sustainability. Figure 2 shows that the integration of MSs provides the structures and routines forsustainable business processes. In order to bring and maintain continuousimprovement, the process is designed around the PDCA cycle (Deming, 1994) which,essentially, provides a meta-routine for continuous improvement along the various
  8. 8. EBR dimensions of corporate sustainability. The integrated management reviews provided23,4 by an IMS are an important means of facilitating a broader focus on the environmental, social, and economic aspects – which lie at the core of corporate sustainability. Integration of MSs helps build a strong case for corporate sustainability. The framework in Figure 2 shows an overview of how to integrate sustainability into business processes. Its main purpose is to structure thinking about how to360 organize the integration of sustainability within the specific context of an organization. It focuses attention on the essentials of corporate sustainability and provides a starting point for integrating sustainability with other organizational imperatives. Further details on the management, measurement, and assessment of sustainability integration are provided in the next two sub-sections. 3.1 Management of sustainability integration Identifying stakeholder demands and then incorporating them into business processes requires a systematic approach characterized by planning, managing resources, designing processes, and continuous improvement. This requires a meta-management approach to corporate sustainable development. Meta-management implies management of the whole enterprise (Foley, 2005). While some authors have advocated the use of a systems approach in the integration of MSs (Jonker and Karapetrovic, 2004; Karapetrovic, 2003; Karapetrovic and Jonker, 2003; Rocha et al., 2007), a meta-management approach is advocated here for two reasons. First, it avoids the vocabulary connotations associated with the use of the term “systems” (as in “systems approach” or “systems” for management of quality, environment, etc.). Second, it explicitly refers to the management of the whole enterprise rather than management of individual sub-systems, which are normally labeled as (standardized) MSs. Meta-management is, thus, the management of various sub-systems at a higher level of abstraction, logic, and inquiry. Meta-management adopts a stakeholder-oriented approach to management of the enterprise. This is consistent with the approach required by corporate sustainability. Meta-management starts by scanning the environment in which the organization operates so that managers can get an understanding of the challenges and opportunities their organization faces. This, in turn, allows managers to make more informed decisions as they set the business direction and formulate a sustainability strategy. Once the organizational vision and strategies are set, it is important to ensure that integration takes place at all organizational levels, horizontally and vertically. As previously indicated, integration focuses on different sets of activities at different organizational levels. At the strategic level, it is about “stakeholder dialogue” – considering their requirements and also communicating how the organization addresses their expectations. At the tactical level, integration deals with designing organizational structures, policies, and processes, as per stakeholder requirements, as well as a system for their evaluation. At the operational level, it is about the execution of tasks in an integrated manner, followed by evaluation of the implemented processes and systems. The integration of sustainability with key organizational activities is required at all the levels, both vertically and horizontally. Vertical integration is required to make sure that the elements of organizational strategy cascade down to all levels and, thus, create a fit among organizational objectives, targets, and processes. Horizontal integration relates to the management efforts intended to integrate various processes,
  9. 9. chains, departments, and positions; and also includes structures and competencies IMS approach(Hardjono et al., 1996). The fit among organizational objectives and activities at the to corporatetactical and operational level is necessary, since the alternative is unintegratedstand-alone processes that create confusion for employees and, invariably, ineffective sustainabilityand inefficient use of resources. Such processes then run the risk of being rolled backsoon after their implementation – thus making the whole program a failure (Hayes andUpton, 1998; Porter, 1996). 361 The integration of sustainability into business processes requires continuousinteraction with stakeholders, and innovative ways of designing, reviewing andupdating business processes. Its very dynamic nature requires development of internalcompetencies and the institutional knowledge to deal with emerging issues and theirimpacts on the organization. The framework for corporate sustainability is erected uponthe PDCA cycle which provides the basis for the meta-management of sustainabilityintegration. To summarize, the meta-management approach to sustainability: . starts from stakeholder dialogue to ensure effective communication with stakeholders; . promotes vertical and horizontal integration to ensure fit among various processes at different organizational levels; . develops the competencies and institutional knowledge for sustainability; and . provides meta-routines for continuous improvement.It is suggested that organizations need to develop a shared interpretation of knowledgeto effectively deal with emerging problems and to understand their organization andtheir surroundings better (Daft and Weick, 1984; Weick, 1987). Nijhof et al. (2005) cite aneed of representation, contribution, and subordination in order to develop a collectivemind that results in individual actions converging in joint actions aimed at meeting theoverall interests, that is, corporate sustainability. Based on the joint actions, sharedhistory, and other interrelations, a shared image develops which results in betterunderstanding of the organizational social system.3.2 Measurement and assessment of corporate sustainability integrationEvaluation of the extent to which sustainable development has been integrated is acentral point conveyed by the framework. This builds on the well-known axiom, “whatgets measured, gets managed”. It is, therefore, important to determine how corporatesustainability initiatives would be evaluated. To develop the measurement andassessment of sustainability, it is helpful to revisit the earlier discussion on the generalframework of integration (Figure 2). As the framework implies, the evaluation ofsustainability can be based on the dynamic interaction with stakeholders and the extentof integration at various organizational levels. Building on this point, a set of keyquestions could be used to structure the evaluation of the extent to which corporatesustainability has been integrated. A representative set of questions is provided inTable II. It is important to note that Table II is intended to support the conceptualframework shown in Figure 2. While Figure 2 is intended as an overview of how tointegrate sustainability into business processes, Table II provides additional detail oneach element of the PDCA cycle and, thus, provides explicit and practical insight intohow this may be accomplished. In other words, Figure 2 shows insight into what
  10. 10. EBR Key questions to evaluate the extent of integration of corporate sustainability23,4 Plan Strategic management Stakeholder dialogue process of corporate Does the organization employ some mechanism to identify stakeholder sustainability requirements?362 Does the organization employ some mechanism to meet stakeholder requirements? Does top management put economic, ecological, and social issues on its agenda? Are the implications of economic, ecological, and social aspects, in the specific context of the organization and its business processes, understood by individuals? Is there a mechanism to identify sustainability indicators and to reach mutually acceptable outcomes? Is there any mechanism to address conflicting stakeholder views? Setting values and objectives Does the organization define the business case for sustainability? Does the organization define the norms and values for corporate sustainability? Do organizational objectives relate to effective management of environmental, economic, and social aspects? Do the sustainability indicators measure progress to achieve corporate goals? Is the integration addressed in the organization’s strategic plans? Securing top management commitment How has top management demonstrated its commitment to corporate sustainability? Are the resources for integration (human, financial, material, informational, and infrastructural) planned upfront? Do Integration Is the integration addressed at the tactical and operational levels (horizontal and vertical integration)? Do management manuals address social, ecological, and economic aspects in an integrated manner? Do the procedures address social, ecological, and economic aspects in an integrated manner? Are the organization’s strategic plans aligned with the tactical and operational processes and activities (vertical integration)? Are the organizational processes (horizontally) integrated with each other? Do the organization’s business processes create value for economic, environmental, and social welfare? Do employees have sufficient knowledge to achieve sustainable business processes? Developing Does the organization manage its internal knowledge of sustainability? competencies Does the organization promote “heterogeneous sustainability knowledge” development (i.e. explicit knowledge in organizational repositories and databases, and tacit knowledge of employees) to promote its greater buy-in by employees and to make it more sustainable?Table II. Does the organization update its knowledge of sustainability?List of key questions Does the organization develop collective knowledge and a shared image ofto evaluate the extent sustainability?of integration (continued)
  11. 11. Key questions to evaluate the extent of integration of corporate sustainability IMS approach to corporate CheckEvaluation Does the organization employ some mechanism to evaluate the outcomes of sustainability integration of sustainable development? Are the objectives related to social, economic, and environmental aspects realized? Do the assessment teams have required competencies? 363 Do employees have the time and resources to carry out an assessment, including data collection and analysis? Are the management reviews carried out regularly to evaluate the stakeholder requirements and the extent of integration of sustainability in business processes? Does management remain alert to new issues? How is management informed of emerging or urgent issues? Are sustainability results communicated to key stakeholders? Do the stakeholders have a medium to provide feedback to the organization? Is there any mechanism for reporting the sustainability outcomes? Does management promote learning from old experiences and responses? ActLearning and Does the organization employ some mechanism for continuous improvementinnovation along various dimensions of business? Are the previous experiences incorporated into organizational business process? How have previous organizational experiences been incorporated into various knowledge repositories? How does the organization ensure that learning to be sustainable and responsible remains an essential strategic imperative and not an ad hoc process or a one-time activity? Table II.constitutes an IMS approach to corporate sustainability while Table II provides insightinto how to execute that approach. The assessment of integration should be based on data collected during theintegration process. The data obtained could be compared with the past internal dataof the company, industry norms, regulator specifications, or voluntary initiatives. It isimportant to emphasize that the measurement and assessment are valuable only whenthey are used for review and improvement. The results of the assessment need to be communicated to the key stakeholders(both internal and external). This may occur formally through sustainability reportingframeworks such as GRI, via company annual reports or websites, or informallythrough personal/organizational stories/experiences in order to strengthen employees’pride and commitment (Nijhof et al., 2005). The communication with stakeholders isalso important for legitimacy reasons.4. Conclusions and future research directionsCorporate sustainability seeks the development of organizational processes and systemsthat will position organizations to anticipate and meet the demands of present and futuregenerations of stakeholders. This, in turn, puts an emphasis on the need to addresseconomic, ecological, and social aspects simultaneously and in an integrated manner.While corporate sustainability has gained significant attention in both academia
  12. 12. EBR and industry, there are difficulties in building it into core business infrastructure and23,4 there is a clear need for a framework to guide its systematic integration. The integration of MSs provides a needed reference point. The integration of MSs, like corporate sustainability, is a stakeholder-driven initiative and, thus, provides a mechanism for determining and then addressing stakeholder demands. Existing MSs, therefore, provide an important leverage point for integrating sustainability with364 existing business infrastructure. An IMS approach to corporate sustainability provides a basis for: . developing needed governance mechanisms and organizational structures; . continuous improvement of corporate sustainability initiatives through integrated management reviews; and . creating routines to integrate corporate sustainability into business processes. This paper provides an original process for the integration of sustainability into mainstream business processes. The integration process consists of identifying stakeholder requirements, systemization of their demands, and then addressing those demands in an integrated manner. Integration also builds social and technical structures to ensure that business processes meet not only the economic concerns of the enterprise but also the ecological and social concerns of broader society. As the paper emphasizes, the integration of sustainability could be organized using a meta-management approach. It focuses on integration at the strategic level, thus minimizing the chances of conflicting stakeholder demands. It also promotes integration throughout the organization from both a vertical and horizontal perspective. This paper also develops a set of original questions to structure thinking about how to evaluate an integration process. As the questions highlights, top management commitment is required throughout the entire process of integrating corporate sustainability with existing business infrastructure. As the paper further notes, sustainability integration needs to become a regular feature of organizational strategy and the decision-making process in order to consistently cater to the emerging needs of stakeholders. Measurement and assessment provide a means for monitoring the success of these efforts and provide the impetus for triggering continuous improvement. The paper concludes that integration of MSs provides an important means for corporate sustainability when carried out in a systematic manner. It also corroborates the finding of Rocha et al. (2007) that an IMS facilitates the integration of sustainability into business processes and, thus, a separate ISO standard is not required for corporate sustainability. Further research could focus on how the meta-management of integration of sustainability unfolds in practice, and whether the diagnostic questions mentioned in this paper provide a basis for structuring the integration of sustainability into business processes. References Adams, C. and Frost, G. (2006), “Accessibility and functionality of the corporate web site: implications for sustainability reporting”, Business Strategy and Environment, Vol. 15 No. 4, pp. 275-87. Asif, M., DeBruijn, E.J., Fisscher, O.A.M. and Steenhuis, H.-J. (2008), “Achieving sustainability three dimensionally”, paper presented at the 4th International Conference on Management of Innovation and Technology (2008-ICMIT), Bangkok.
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