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Indexing Sustainability

Bill DiBenedetto | Monday April 20th, 2009 | 0 Comments

true-sustainability-index2.jpgIs sustainability becoming a serious concept in corporate boardrooms?
Some evidence that the answer might be yes came recently from the non-profit Center for Sustainable Innovation, which released a new model for measuring corporate sustainability performance.
It’s called the True Sustainability Index. CSI’s model comprises 15 indicators that sustainability managers can use to assess the full triple bottom line performance of their organizations. TSI says the model will be useful in their attempts to understand, rate and rank the sustainability performance of organizations as a basis for making investment decisions.


The model features a set of indicators and metrics that track or measure organizational greenhouse gas emissions, an organization’s impacts on air quality, water use, non-water natural resources, organizational emissions of solid wastes, impacts on ecosystem habitats, flora, fauna and biodiversity. Another set of indicators assesses an organization’s impacts on human capital, its contributions to creating and maintaining social institutions, social infrastructure and livable wages.
Unlike other sustainability indexes and there are many of them around, the TSI is made up of metrics that are context-based, meaning that they express organizational performance relative to actual social and environmental conditions in the world. Water consumption, for example, is measured against renewable supplies; solid wastes are measured against landfill capacities; and impacts on social and economic conditions are measured against societal needs. The model released that was released late last month “is an early prototype – an 80-percent solution – and remains a work in progress,” CSI says.
CSI’s context-based approach to measuring and reporting organizational sustainability contrasts with other other mainstream reporting methods and indexes, most of which are context-free.
Even the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), which advocates for the inclusion of sustainability context in related reports, fails to provide firm guidelines on how to do so. Most, if not all, GRI reports are therefore devoid of context, according to CSI, and “rarely make it possible to understand the true sustainability performance of the organizations they describe.”
Perhaps the time is right for sustainability. A recent survey from the American Marketing Association and Fleishman-Hillard, Inc. found that nearly 60 percent of corporate marketers expect their companies to increase environmental sustainability initiatives over the next two or three or years. Also, one-half of those surveyed said current economic conditions will encourage the adoption of sustainability practices. Click here for the report.
The key is that for the sustainability impetus to sustain itself further it has to move beyond the prototype stage, with clear and universally accepted guidelines and standards. TSI looks like a great step forward.


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