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Business and the sustainable development goals measuring and managing corporate impacts

Business and the Sustainable
Development Goals
Measuring and Managing
Corporate Impacts
Edited by
Norma Schönherr
André Martinuzzi


Business and the Sustainable Development Goals


Norma Schönherr  •  André Martinuzzi
Editors

Business and the
Sustainable
Development Goals
Measuring and Managing Corporate Impacts



Editors
Norma Schönherr
Institute for Managing Sustainability
Vienna University of Economics and
Business
Vienna, Austria

André Martinuzzi
Institute for Managing Sustainability
Vienna University of Economics and
Business
Vienna, Austria

ISBN 978-3-030-16809-4    ISBN 978-3-030-16810-0 (eBook)
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-16810-0
© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer
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Preface

Over the past 15 years, business has emerged as an important player in the
field of sustainable development. Concurrently, however, trust in the private sector’s ability to self-regulate and drive positive social change has


been waning. Negative consequences of trade and globalization, including
rising inequality and stagnant wage levels, have increased opposition to
global business, in particular, and globalization, more generally. While
many firms have responded to this by adopting corporate sustainability
practices and implementing sustainability management systems, the impact
of these measures is not reflected in improvements to the state of the
planet. On the contrary, global sustainability challenges like climate
change, biodiversity loss, and pollution continue to mount, and the rollback of environmental legislation in some places, such as the United
States, is not a promising sign. If, as many executives today agree, sustainability is a prerequisite for continued prosperity and competitiveness, it
becomes ever more urgent to understand what kind of corporate sustainability really impacts positively on the natural environment, on society and
firms themselves.
In the midst of this ongoing debate surrounding the role of business in
society, there is an emerging consensus that companies can and ought to
contribute to sustainability by enhancing positive impacts (e.g. on livelihoods, health, and education) and reducing negative ones (e.g. resource
consumption, pollution, and human rights violations). This requires both
strategic sensitivity to global sustainability challenges and sound impact
measurement and management at the corporate level.
v


vi 

PREFACE

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United
Nations General Assembly in September 2015 provide a comprehensive
and universally applicable framework for strategic corporate engagement
with sustainability issues. This constitutes a good entry point for companies to begin tackling their sustainability impacts in a more systematic
fashion at all levels and to identify new business opportunities while contributing to the solution of the grand sustainability challenges facing the
world today.
However, measuring and managing the contribution of business to the
SDGs poses particular challenges. For firms, it requires a well-founded
understanding of the wider impacts of their core business, community,
and philanthropic engagement, as well as of the materiality of these impacts
in a sustainability context. Assessing impacts has to consider trade-offs and
ambiguities arising from the diversity of sustainability issues as well as the
values and interests of different stakeholder groups. At the same time, the
SDGs are an unprecedented opportunity for stakeholders to engage with
business. For consultants, measuring and managing impacts is a promising
area of work, as many companies lack knowledge and data beyond their
corporate boundaries. And for researchers, impact measurement and management has emerged as an important new field for research, as well as an
application area of their knowledge and tools.
In this context, this volume serves a dual purpose: On the one hand, it
critically analyzes selected impact measurement and management tools
and speaks to their respective benefits and limitations. On the other hand,
it aims to provide guidance on management decisions that enable high-­
quality impact measurement and management to support companies in
demonstrating their contribution to sustainability.
The analyses underlying this book are the result of three years of
research conducted by an international consortium in the EU-funded
research project GLOBAL VALUE—Managing Business Impacts on
Development (www.global-value.eu/toolkit). This highly collaborative
research project involved leading universities, civil society organizations,
and corporations from Europe, Asia, and Africa. The research presented in
this volume is complemented by concrete examples from corporate practice and interviews with experts from organizations deeply involved in tool
development and measuring the contribution of business to
sustainability.
It is our hope that this volume will be of value to academics, as well as
practitioners and professionals with close links to research (including


 PREFACE 

vii

e­ valuation professionals, consultants, and tool developers) working in or
across the fields of sustainability management, corporate sustainability,
inclusive business, and sustainable development. More specifically, the
work should be of relevance to readers interested in recent research on the
business contribution to the SDGs, or understanding different methodological approaches and practices for measuring corporate sustainability
impacts, as well as to those who want to receive an overview of this
dynamic, evolving field of research.
Vienna, Austria
February 2019

Norma Schönherr
André Martinuzzi


Acknowledgments

Funding for the research underlying this volume was provided by the
European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme in the context of the GLOBAL VALUE project (contract number: 613295). We are
grateful to the European Commission for making this research possible.
We also wish to thank the GLOBAL VALUE project partners for three
years of fruitful and very pleasant collaboration. Their expertise, creativity,
and commitment have been invaluable.
Our gratitude also goes to the contributing authors of this volume,
who have made their original research papers available and have borne
with us throughout an extensive process of review and revision. Moreover,
we wish to acknowledge the tool developers and practitioners, who have
provided their insights in interviews, and our case companies for providing
data and investing time into collaboratively testing existing impact assessment approaches, as well as for engaging with us to develop the best practice cases presented in this book.
Finally, yet importantly, we are grateful for the constructive feedback of
several anonymous reviewers on the proposal and draft manuscript of this
volume and to the Palgrave Macmillan editorial team for their patience
and support.
Any remaining errors are strictly our own. The European Commission
is not responsible for use that may be made of any material arising from
the GLOBAL VALUE project and this book.

ix


Contents

1Introduction: The Sustainable Development Goals and the
Future of Corporate Sustainability  1
André Martinuzzi and Norma Schönherr
2The Corporate Toolbox 19
Norma Schönherr, Lucia A. Reisch, Andrea Farsang, Armi
Temmes, Adele Tharani, and André Martinuzzi
3Scoping What Matters: An Introduction to Impact
Mapping 55
Florian Findler
4Measuring What Matters: Standardized Versus
Customizable Impact Measurement Tools 75
Adele Tharani
5Managing What Matters: Integrating Impact Measurement
into Corporate Sustainability Management 95
Armi Temmes

xi


xii 

CONTENTS

6Implementing Impact Measurement and Management113
Norma Schönherr, Lucia A. Reisch, Andrea Farsang, Armi
Temmes, Adele Tharani, and André Martinuzzi
Index129


Notes on Contributors

Andrea Farsang  serves as a Senior Project Manager in Regulatory and
Risk Transformation at Nordea, Denmark. Previously she worked as a
post-doctoral researcher and project manager at Copenhagen Business
School, Department of Intercultural Communication and Management,
Denmark.
Florian Findler  is a teaching and research associate at the Institute for
Managing Sustainability (www.sustainability.eu) at Vienna  University of
Economics and Business, Austria. His main research interests are CSR,
impact assessment, and sustainability in higher education.
André Martinuzzi  is Head of the Institute for Managing Sustainability
(www.sustainability.eu) and Associate Professor at Vienna University of
Economics and Business, Austria. He has more than 20 years of experience in coordinating EU-wide research projects for the European
Commission, as well as for international organizations and ministries. He is an expert in the fields of corporate sustainability, responsible
innovation, evaluation, and knowledge brokerage.
Lucia  A.  Reisch  is Professor for Consumer Behaviour and Consumer
Policy at Copenhagen Business School, Department of Intercultural
Communication and Management, Denmark. Her main research
focus is on behavioral economics, sustainable consumption (in particular; energy, food and health, fashion), intercultural consumer
behavior, consumers and new technologies, consumer policy, and corporate sustainability.
xiii


xiv 

NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS

Norma  Schönherr  is a project manager and research associate in the
Institute for Managing Sustainability (www.sustainability.eu) at Vienna
University of Economics and Business, Austria. Her areas of expertise
include CSR, corporate sustainability, sustainable development, sustainability management, and responsible innovation.
Armi  Temmes  is Professor of Practice, Corporate Sustainability, at the
Department of Management Studies at Aalto University, Finland. Before
entering academia, she worked in sustainability management and in executive roles in the forestry industry. Her main areas of interest include sustainability management and corporate sustainability, particularly in the
energy and mobility sectors.
Adele  Tharani is a research associate in the Institute for Managing
Sustainability (www.sustainability.eu) at Vienna University of Economics
and Business, Austria. Previously she worked for the United Nations
Development Programme as a CSR consultant. She specializes in corporate sustainability, impact measurement, cross-sectoral collaboration,
and responsible innovation.


List of Figures

Fig. 1.1
Fig. 1.2
Fig. 1.3
Fig. 2.1
Fig. 2.2
Fig. 2.3
Fig. 2.4
Fig. 2.5
Fig. 2.6
Fig. 2.7
Fig. 2.8
Fig. 2.9
Fig. 2.10
Fig. 2.11
Fig. 2.12
Fig. 2.13
Fig. 2.14

The evolution of strategies for corporate sustainability
3
Certified management systems according to ISO 14001
4
Global sales of organic food and global revenues from Fairtrade
International products (1999–2016) in billion US dollars
5
Relative frequency of tools addressing specific Sustainable
Development Goals
21
Management control—the Financial Valuation Tool (IFC)
24
Management control—the Human Rights Compliance
Assessment (DIHR)
26
Reporting—the Sustainability Code (RNE)
27
Information and learning—the SDG Compass (WBCSD, GRI,
UNGC)29
Information & learning—the Natural Capital Protocol (NCC) 30
Information and learning—the Global Compact SelfAssessment Tool (UNGC et al.)
32
Comprehensive tools—the B Impact Assessment (B Lab)
34
Specific tools—the Forest Industry Carbon Assessment Tool
(NCASI, IFC)
35
Level of analysis—the Gender Equality Principles Assessment
(GEPI)37
Level of analysis—the Sustainability Assessment of Food and
Agriculture Systems (FAO)
39
Application context—the HIGG Index (SAC)
41
Application context—the LBG Model (Corporate Citizenship) 43
Implementation requirements—the Sustainable Value Calculator
(Figge and Hahn 2005)
45

xv


xvi 

LIST OF FIGURES

Fig. 2.15
Fig. 3.1
Fig. 3.2
Fig. 3.3
Fig. 3.4
Fig. 3.5
Fig. 4.1
Fig. 5.1
Fig. 5.2
Fig. 6.1
Fig. 6.2

Implementation requirements—the Measuring Impact Framework
(WBCSD)47
Pathways for corporate impacts
61
Impact example: alternatives to animal testing
64
Impact example: measures for renewable energy use
66
Impact example: the PET to PET recycling manufactory
68
Elementary impact map of Vöslauer
69
Level of standardization and customization in tested tools
80
Framework for analyzing tools for impact assessment in relation
to the sustainability management system of a company.
(Modified from Halme et al. 2018)
97
Using impact assessment tools for specific management purposes 108
Seven challenges related to the shift from conventional to
impact oriented corporate sustainability strategies
117
Areas for future research on impact measurement and
management in the context of the SDGs
125


List of Tables

Table 2.1 Levels of analysis in corporate impact measurement and
management36
Table 2.2 Systematic comparison of corporate impact measurement and
management tools
49
Table 4.1 Overview of standardized tools
77
Table 4.2 Recommendations on standardized tools
83
Table 4.3 An overview of customizable tools
85
Table 4.4 Recommendations on customizable tools
86
Table 4.5 An overview of hybrid approaches
87
Table 5.1 Possible choices of tools for different management purposes
100
Table 6.1 A comparison of conventional and impact oriented approaches
to corporate sustainability
115
Table 6.2 Fit for purpose—features of appropriate tools for management
control, reporting or learning
120

xvii


List of Boxes

Box 1.2

Interview with Pietro Bertazzi, Head of Sustainable Development
at the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)
10
Box 2.1
Management Control: The Financial Valuation Tool (IFC)
24
Box 2.2 Management Control: The Human Rights Compliance
Assessment (Danish Institute for Human Rights)
25
Box 2.3
Reporting: The Sustainability Code (RNE)
27
Box 2.4
Information and Learning: The SDG Compass (WBCSD, GRI,
UNGC)28
Box 2.5
Information and Learning: The Natural Capital Protocol (NCC) 30
Box 2.6 Information and Learning: The Global Compact Self-­
Assessment Tool (UNGC, DI, Ministry of Business and Growth
Denmark, Danish Institute for Human Rights, IFU)
31
Box 2.7
Comprehensive Tools: The B Impact Assessment (B Lab)
33
Box 2.8 Specific Tools: The Forest Industry Carbon Assessment Tool
(FICAT)35
Box 2.9 Level of Analysis: The Gender Equality Principles Assessment
Tool (GEPI)
37
Box 2.10 Level of Analysis: The Sustainability Assessment of Food and
Agriculture Systems (SAFA) Guidelines and Tool (FAO)
38
Box 2.11 Application Context: The HIGG Index (SAC)
40
Box 2.12 Application Context: The LBG Model (Corporate Citizenship) 42
Box 2.13 Implementation Requirements: The Sustainable Value Calculator
(Figge and Hahn 2005)
44
Box 2.14 Implementation Requirements: The Measuring Impact
Framework (WBCSD)
46

xix


xx 

List of Boxes

Box 4.1
Box 5.1

Interview with John Lloyd, the Associate Director, Head of
LBG, Corporate Citizenship, London
88
Exemplary Questions from the B Impact Assessment
102


CHAPTER 1

Introduction: The Sustainable Development
Goals and the Future of Corporate
Sustainability
André Martinuzzi and Norma Schönherr

Abstract  Martinuzzi and Schönherr provide a comprehensive summary
of the evolution of corporate sustainability, spanning the range from philanthropy, via the systematic implementation of eco-efficiency and management systems, product differentiation and innovation, to contemporary
strategies that directly link core business and sustainability impacts. They
highlight successes and limitations of these strategies and discuss implications for the future of corporate sustainability, which they view as impact-­
oriented, collaborative, data-intensive, and systemic. The United Nations’
Sustainable Development Goals are introduced as a business-relevant, universally applicable framework that may guide companies in better measuring and managing their impacts on sustainability in light of this expanded
understanding of corporate sustainability.
Keywords  Corporate sustainability • Corporate strategies • Sustainable
development goals • Impact measurement
A. Martinuzzi • N. Schönherr (*)
Institute for Managing Sustainability, Vienna University of Economics and
Business, Vienna, Austria
e-mail: Andre.martinuzzi@wu.ac.at; Norma.schoenherr@wu.ac.at
© The Author(s) 2019
N. Schönherr, A. Martinuzzi (eds.), Business and the Sustainable
Development Goals,
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-16810-0_1

1


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A. MARTINUZZI AND N. SCHÖNHERR

Business in general and multinational corporations (MNCs) in particular
affect billions of people across the world through their products, operations, and value chains. Given their immense wealth and influence over
people’s daily lives, the role and responsibility of business in society is a
recurring topic of discourse in academia (Carroll 2015), and also in policy,
civil society, and the private sector itself. This discourse has matured over
the past 70 years, resulting in a comprehensive stock of literature under
diverse headlines, such as corporate social responsibility (van Marrewijk
2003), business ethics (Ferrero and Sison 2014), corporate citizenship
(Matten and Crane 2005), and, more recently, corporate sustainability
(CS) (Montiel and Delgado-Ceballos 2014; Schaltegger 2011). Across
the field, the conflicting priorities of, on the one hand, corporate aspirations, in terms of profits, growth, competitive advantage, and market
shares, and, on the other hand, societal objectives, including prosperity,
well-being, and sustainability, remain a recurring theme. Notwithstanding
this tension, business has received increasing recognition for its potential
to be a major driver of sustainable development (Blowfield 2012), and
there is an emerging consensus that MNCs in particular can and ought to
contribute to sustainable development in a substantial and measurable way
(Kolk 2016). However, corporate strategies to fulfill this expectation have
been only partially successful so far (Dyllick and Muff 2016).

A History of Corporate Sustainability in a Nutshell
Corporate strategies for CS have continuously evolved over the past century, spanning a range from philanthropic engagement, via the systematic
implementation of eco-efficiency and management systems, product differentiation, and innovation, to contemporary strategies that directly link
core business with sustainability (see Fig. 1.1).
One of the most widely established embodiments of CS is corporate
philanthropy (Gautier and Pache 2015), best defined as the generous
donation of money to good causes. The modern form of corporate charitable giving emerged in the first half of the twentieth century. It is not by
accident that this period saw the emergence of some of the largest private
charitable foundations that remain in existence today, including the
Rockefeller Foundation (founded in 1913, in the United States), the
Wellcome Trust (1936, United Kingdom), and the Robert Bosch
Foundation (1964, Germany). Philanthropy is a highly visible way of
returning some of the proceeds of business to society. As well as being of


1  INTRODUCTION: THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS… 

3

Fig. 1.1  The evolution of strategies for corporate sustainability

public benefit, the advantages of charitable giving are that it is easy to
communicate and can make a real difference to the beneficiaries. However,
it is also highly selective in terms of who benefits, and it is easily discontinued in times of austerity. In addition, philanthropy is frequently far
removed from core business concerns—in the case of foundations, it may
even be outsourced to another organization—and it provides very little
incentive or opportunity to learn or develop innovative ways in which
business itself may contribute to sustainability.
If the first half of the twentieth century was the age of philanthropy, the
second half was the age of efficiency. Increasingly visible environmental
deterioration, two oil crises, and the seminal Limits to Growth report
(Meadows 1972) defined the problem of the period as “how to do more
with less”. In other words, business began to strive for eco-efficiency in
addition to economic efficiency. The concept of eco-efficiency fundamentally links some measure of value added with environmental impacts of
economic activities. The higher the ratio of value added to ecological
impact, the more eco-efficient a product or process is (Ehrenfeld 2005).
The business case for eco-efficiency is easily made: the procurement of
scarce inputs, wasteful production processes, and waste disposal all engender costs to businesses. Eco-efficiency provides a win–win situation in that
such costs are reduced along with detrimental environmental impacts
(DeSimone and Popoff 1997). However, where such win–win situations
do not materialize, for example, in the case of freely available ecosystem
services (such as clean air, water, or climate regulation by forests, all of


4 

A. MARTINUZZI AND N. SCHÖNHERR

which are frequently available to use for free), firms do not have incentives
to act to reduce resource use. In addition, because rebound effects tend to
reverse initial gains in eco-efficiency, this approach has not resulted in
absolute resource savings in most sectors (Herring 2006).
The mid-1990s saw the rise of management systems as a systematic
way of setting up targets and strategies, the assignment of dedicated roles
for dealing with sustainability within companies, as well as certification
systems to verify corporate environmental and social performance over
time (Andrews et al. 2010). Arguably among the best-known examples
are two standards established by the International Standardization
Organization (ISO), namely, ISO 14001 standard for environmental
management (first released in 1999; see Fig. 1.21) and ISO 5001 standard for energy management (first released in 2011).2 Another prominent example is the Eco-­Management and Audit Scheme, better known
as EMAS. Implemented by the European Commission in 1993 (Iraldo
et al. 2009), the scheme had registered around 13,000 certified organizations and sites by March 2018.3 As management systems for environmental, social, and quality concerns matured, hundreds of thousands of
companies adopted them.
Management systems provide standardized and quality-assured processes for engagement with environmental and social issues. However,
they tend to be viewed as bureaucratic exercises, thus failing to become
part of organizational culture and practice (Boiral 2011). The rather static

Fig. 1.2  Certified management systems according to ISO 14001


1  INTRODUCTION: THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS… 

5

nature of management systems, once they are established, as well as the
regular need for re-certification, may lead to audit fatigue. Furthermore,
management systems have been shown to foster a checklist mentality
(Boiral et al. 2018). This may prevent the development of innovative solutions to newly emerging sustainability issues and appropriate, timely
responses to concerns outside the scope of the established system.
A more innovative approach that became firmly established around the
same time as management system is sustainability by product differentiation. Previously relegated to specialized third-world shops, from the late
1990s, organic, Fairtrade, and other eco-friendly or ethically traded products began to routinely appear in mainstream stores. Figure 1.34 illustrates
the growth in sales and revenue of two of the most widely adopted labeling schemes for eco-friendly and ethically traded products between
1999 and 2016.
Today, eco-friendly or ethically traded products are available in almost
all sectors, ranging from ethical fashion, organic and fair trade foods, eco-­
friendly cosmetics and detergents to “green” funeral services. The business case for offering eco-friendly and ethical product alternatives lies in
the potential to sell such products at a premium over their conventional
counterparts. However, the actual sustainability of such product alternatives is not always clear-cut for consumers. This has led to the proliferation
of labeling schemes, which aim to signal the respective sustainability-­
related qualities of products to consumers. A stocktaking of such labels,

Fig. 1.3  Global sales of organic food and global revenues from Fairtrade
International products (1999–2016) in billion US dollars


6 

A. MARTINUZZI AND N. SCHÖNHERR

conducted in 2016, identified over 240 labels applicable to 80 sectors in
180 countries (ITC 2016). Although eco-friendly and ethically traded
products have been successfully established in niche markets worldwide,
firms have struggled to establish them in mass markets, and, therefore,
they frequently fail to achieve economies of scale (Vermeulen 2015). In
addition, many companies offer sustainable product lines as a supplement
to conventional products, yet generally do not strive to improve the sustainability of their overall offerings to the same degree.
The early 2000s saw innovation reach the core of the discourse on CS
(Gallego-Álvarez et al. 2011). On the one hand, sustainability has been
acknowledged as a source of innovation and new business opportunities
(Bouglet et al. 2012). On the other hand, innovation is increasingly recognized as a potential lever to solve pressing sustainability challenges
(Varadarajan 2017). For businesses, this approach offers the promise of
creating and sustaining competitive advantage while helping to solve
grand societal challenges (Adams et al. 2016). However, successful examples of sustainable innovations carried out by MNCs or at the industry
level are rare. Although they could fundamentally contribute to sustainability, it is frequently difficult to achieve such innovations because innovation barriers within firms must be overcome, and buy-in from stakeholders
and changes in regulatory environments are also required (Boons and
Lüdeke-Freund 2013).
The sharing economy has brought forth some of the most successful
business models over the past decade (Stephany 2015). This economy ideally enables the commercialization of underused assets (such as spare
rooms, cars, or tools that lie idle most of the time) in ways that produce
economic, environmental, and social benefits, usually via tech platforms.
Uber and Airbnb are some of the most prominent examples (Zervas et al.
2017). By prioritizing sharing (or rather renting) over owning, customers
save money, earn supplemental income, lower carbon footprints and
resource consumption, increase social capital, and build new communities.
However, such technological innovations have been shown to be a double-­
edged sword, raising ethical concerns across the globe and doubts as to
their potentially detrimental impacts on both people and the planet (Ross
2016). One concern raised in relation to the previous example of the
­sharing economy is that it routes the largest part of the value streams generated by driving Uber cars or renting out spare rooms via Airbnb away
from local communities toward a few technology hubs in Silicon Valley
and China, which own the platforms necessary for the functioning of the


1  INTRODUCTION: THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS… 

7

sharing economy. Such a concentration of the market, critics fear, increases
regional inequality and takes away from local economies. Another concern
is the erosion of workers’ rights and benefits. In the absence of an adapted
regulatory system, the sharing economy involves a high risk that the costs
of worker protections (such as pensions and health insurance), which in
many countries are at least partially carried by business, will be pushed
back toward the already strained taxpayer-funded social safety nets
(Martin 2016).

Impact and the Future of Corporate Sustainability
As the previous paragraphs have illustrated, CS has increasingly become
more powerful and more closely connected to core business and competitiveness, but also more resource-intensive and complex (see Fig.  1.1).
While philanthropic engagement only requires money and a beneficiary,
product differentiation requires aware consumers willing to buy, management systems require trusted third-party certification, and innovative business models, for sustainability, require additional buy-in from wider
markets and governments as well as the creation of enabling regulatory
frameworks. As companies have expanded their arsenal of strategies for
addressing sustainability, they have also built capacity for implementation
and for navigating more comprehensive stakeholder demands, technological disruption, and an increasingly unpredictable business environment.
In light of this increasing complexity and the continuously evolving
discourse on the contribution of business to sustainability, impact-oriented
CS has emerged since 2010 as a fundamentally new approach to CS.
Impact-oriented CS first entered the big stage when the ISO published its
ISO 26000 framework for sustainability in organizations. ISO 26000
establishes a new understanding of CS as “involving the responsibility of
an organization for the impacts of its decisions and activities (including
products, services, and processes) on society and the environment” (ibid.,
2.18). Impact-oriented CS has been widely adopted by key global players,
including the European Commission,5 the United Nations Global
Compact,6 the World Business Council for Sustainable Development
(WBCSD),7 and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) (see the interview
in Box 1.2).
The fundamental question of CS has shifted from what companies do in
pursuit of sustainability toward what they ultimately achieve for sustainability. The underlying rationale of impact-oriented CS is that all companies


8 

A. MARTINUZZI AND N. SCHÖNHERR

have impacts on the environment and society by their very nature. Whenever
activities are undertaken, inputs are processed and transformed into marketable products and services. These are brought to market, bought, used,
and eventually disposed of. Each step in this value chain uses resources,
generates waste, and affects stakeholders outside the company (Searcy
2016). Impact orientation expands the remit of CS to account for these
impacts, including direct, indirect, positive, and negative impacts, as well as
local and global impacts (Dyllick and Muff 2016). This marks a new stage
in the development of CS.
The fundamental challenge of impact-oriented CS is linking organizational activities undertaken along the value chain with macro-level changes
in the environment, the economy, and the society. Such macro-level effects
or impacts accrue outside the boundaries of the organization, sometimes
far away from the physical location of an activity, and can materialize with
significant time lags. Take, for instance, the example of climate change.
Business has been a major contributor to rising greenhouse gas emissions,
which lead to climate change. At the same time, business contributes to
climate change mitigation and adaptation by using renewable energy, and
developing and deploying new low carbon technologies. No single business is responsible for climate change, but all businesses will be ultimately
affected by it. Understanding the phenomenon of climate change and the
contribution of corporate activities is a prerequisite for tackling the issue.
This requires an understanding of the complex dynamics of the social and
biophysical systems in which companies are embedded as well as collaboration with a multitude of stakeholders (Whiteman et al. 2013). Measuring
up to this ambition is a challenging task in the absence of integrated theoretical or managerial frameworks that guide MNCs in measuring and managing their impacts on sustainability (Starik and Kanashiro 2013).
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a global agenda comprising 17 aspirational sustainability goals, may fill this gap. The SDGs define
the most pertinent global sustainability challenges up to 2030. Moreover,
they break down these aspirational goals into 169 actionable targets and
thus provide an integrated reference framework for impact-oriented CS.

Enter the Sustainable Development Goals
In the context of impact-oriented CS, the SDGs may prove beneficial in
three distinct ways. First, they contain a universally applicable, yet delimited, set of sustainability issues, many of them broken down into targets


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