A Comparative Analysis of Frameworks for Evaluating Corporate Sustainability Performance and Frameworks for Guiding Corporate Sustainability Practices: To What Extent Do These Frameworks Align?
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Increasing evidence of the positive correlation between sustainability performance and financial performance of companies has motivated the proliferation of tools that seek to assess corporate sustainability performance and provide guidance to companies on sustainable business practices and sustainability reporting. Despite the growing number of tools for evaluating, rating and ranking the sustainability performance of companies, the assessment methodologies and frameworks of these tools have not been fully disclosed, leaving both (socially) responsible investors and companies with little publicly available information and understanding of the sustainability issues that are relevant to business practices. This research is an exploratory study seeking to gain greater insight into corporate sustainability assessment as it is practiced within the capital markets. The research specifically examines the extent to which three prominent stock market sustainability indexes, the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes, the FTSE4Good Index Series and the Jantzi Social Index, represent the sustainability performance of companies. The study involves a comparative analysis of sustainability criteria, and an examination of the extent to which the concept of sustainable development and the theoretical perspectives on sustainability assessment are reflected in the assessment frameworks of the indexes. Furthermore, a secondary question addressed in this study is the extent to which the Global Reporting Initiative’s G3 Guidelines and the ISO 26000 standard influence the sustainability criteria used in the indexes’ assessment frameworks. The significance of this secondary question is to understand the extent of alignment between tools which provide guidance on sustainable business practices and tools which assess corporate sustainability performance. A significant finding of this research is the lack of standardization amongst the assessment and guidance tools on the core sustainability issues that are relevant to businesses across all industry sectors. While all of the tools generally follow the same model of organizing sustainability criteria according to environmental, social and economic themes, within each of those themes, a wide spectrum of issues are covered, with poor consensus amongst the tools on the core indicators that are relevant to business practices. An additional finding is that while the theoretical perspectives on sustainable development and sustainability assessment are evident in the indexes, there is significant margin for improvement in terms of developing indicators which are future-oriented and focus on a long-term perspective, as well as incorporating the notion of context in performance metrics.
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Jeyalathy M. Sivanesan (2011). A Comparative Analysis of Frameworks for Evaluating Corporate Sustainability Performance and Frameworks for Guiding Corporate Sustainability Practices: To What Extent Do These Frameworks Align?. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/6030