Sustainability Reporting

There are many approaches to Sustainability. The following will describe the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) Approach. This includes the Accountability of a company not only for its Financial Responsibility, but also for a company’s Environmental Responsibility and also the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Sustainability has become a synonym for TBL and in the US the emphasis for Sustainability is often on the Environmental Responsibility, however in Europe, Sustainability will often emphasize the Social Responsibility.

The term “Sustainability” generally refers to the question, “What must we do now to assure that we will be just as viable 50 years from now?” Just as financial sustainability requires long-term strategies, so do the environmental and social responsibilities of a company.

One of the most established means of reporting for TBL is by using the guidelines as presented in the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) which is described with more detail within this site. Sustainability has become a burgeoning topic with colleges and universities – especially with educational institutions offering degrees in B-Corporations. Sustainability approaches have also spread out from business applications to governments at all levels from national to local.

Sustainability from Wikipedia:

In traditional business accounting, the "bottom line" refers to the sum of revenue minus expenses, which is either "loss" if negative, or "profit" if positive. The term originated because profit is always shown as the very "bottom line" on a statement of revenue and expenses. Over the last 50 years, environmentalists and social justice advocates have struggled to bring a broader definition of "bottom line" into public consciousness, by introducing full cost accounting. For example, if a corporation shows a monetary profit, but their asbestos mine causes thousands of deaths from asbestosis, and their copper mine pollutes a river, and the government ends up spending taxpayer money on health care and river clean-up, how do we perform a full societal cost?

The concept of a triple bottom line (abbreviated as TBL or 3BL) adds two more "bottom lines"; social and environmental concerns. The three together are often paraphrased as "Profit, People, Planet", or referred to as "the three pillars"  With the ratification of the United Nations and ICLEI TBL standard for urban and community accounting in early 2007, this became the dominant approach to public sector full cost accounting. Similar UN standards apply to natural capital and human measurement to assist in measurements required by TBL, e.g. the EcoBudget standard for reporting ecological footprint.

An example of an organization seeking a triple bottom line would be a social enterprise run as a non-profit, but earning income by offering opportunities for handicapped people who have been labelled "unemployable", to earn a living recycling. The organization earns a profit, which is controlled by a volunteer Board, and ploughed back into the community. The social benefit is the meaningful employment of disadvantaged citizens, and the reduction in the society's welfare or disability costs. The environmental benefit comes from the recycling accomplished.

In the private sector, a commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) implies a commitment to some form of TBL reporting. This is distinct from the more limited changes required to deal only with ecological issues.

Sustainability Definitions

For reporting their efforts companies may demonstrate their commitment to CSR through the following:

  • Top-level involvement (CEO, Board of Directors)

  • Policy Investments

  • Programs

  • Signatories to voluntary standards

  • Principles (UN Global Compact-Ceres Principles)

  • Reporting (Global Reporting Initiative)

Triple bottom line (TBL) accounting expands the traditional reporting framework to take into account social and environmental performance in addition to financial performance. In 1981 Freer Spreckley first articulated the triple bottom line in a publication called 'Social Audit - A Management Tool for Co-operative Working'. In this work, he argued that enterprises should measure and report on social, environmental and financial performance.

The concept of TBL demands that a company's responsibility lies with stakeholders rather than shareholders. In this case, "stakeholders" refers to anyone who is influenced, either directly or indirectly, by the actions of the firm. According to the stakeholder theory, the business entity should be used as a vehicle for coordinating stakeholder interests, instead of maximizing shareholder (owner) profit.

A growing number of financial institutions incorporate a triple bottom line approach in their work. It is at the core of the business of banks in the Global Alliance for Banking on Values, for example.

Sustainability Bottom lines

The triple bottom line is made up of "social equity, economic, and environmental" factors.

"People, planet and profit" succinctly describes the triple bottom lines and the goal of sustainability. The phrase, "people, planet, profit", was coined by John Elkington in 1995 while at SustainAbility, and was later adopted as the title of the Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell's first sustainability report in 1997. As a result, one country in which the 3P concept took deep root was The Netherlands.

"People" pertains to fair and beneficial business practices toward labor and the community and region in which a corporation conducts its business. A TBL company conceives a reciprocal social structure in which the well-being of corporate, labor and other stakeholder interests are interdependent.

A triple bottom line enterprise seeks to benefit many constituencies, not exploit or endanger any group of them. The "upstreaming" of a portion of profit from the marketing of finished goods back to the original producer of raw materials, for example, a farmer in fair trade agricultural practice, is a common feature. In concrete terms, a TBL business would not use child labor and monitor all contracted companies for child labor exploitation, would pay fair salaries to its workers, would maintain a safe work environment and tolerable working hours, and would not otherwise exploit a community or its labor force. A TBL business also typically seeks to "give back" by contributing to the strength and growth of its community with such things as health care and education. Quantifying this bottom line is relatively new, problematic and often subjective. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has developed guidelines to enable corporations and NGOs alike to comparably report on the social impact of a business.

"Planet" (natural capital) refers to sustainable environmental practices. A TBL company endeavors to benefit the natural order as much as possible or at the least do no harm and minimize environmental impact. A TBL endeavor reduces its ecological footprint by, among other things, carefully managing its consumption of energy and non-renewables and reducing manufacturing waste as well as rendering waste less toxic before disposing of it in a safe and legal manner. "Cradle to grave" is uppermost in the thoughts of TBL manufacturing businesses, which typically conduct a life cycle assessment of products to determine what the true environmental cost is from the growth and harvesting of raw materials to manufacture to distribution to eventual disposal by the end user. A triple bottom line company does not produce harmful or destructive products such as weapons, toxic chemicals or batteries containing dangerous heavy metals, for example.

"Profit" is the economic value created by the organization after deducting the cost of all inputs, including the cost of the capital tied up. It therefore differs from traditional accounting definitions of profit. In the original concept, within a sustainability framework, the "profit" aspect needs to be seen as the real economic benefit enjoyed by the host society. It is the real economic impact the organization has on its economic environment. This is often confused to be limited to the internal profit made by a company or organization (which nevertheless remains an essential starting point for the computation). Therefore, an original TBL approach cannot be interpreted as simply traditional corporate accounting profit plus social and environmental impacts unless the "profits" of other entities are included as a social benefit.

Sustainability Supporting Arguments

The following business-based arguments support the concept of TBL:

  • Reaching untapped market potential: TBL companies can find financially profitable niches which were missed when money alone was the driving factor.

  • Adapting to new business sectors: Since many business opportunities are developing in the realm of social entrepreneurialism, businesses hoping to reach this expanding market must design themselves to be financially profitable, socially beneficial and ecologically sustainable or fail to compete with those companies who do design themselves as such. For example, Fair Trade and Ethical Trade companies require ethical and sustainable practices from all of their suppliers and service providers. A business which is planning to work with Fair Trade or Ethical Trade companies must design their business model to be TBL.

The argument is that the Earth's carrying capacity is itself at risk, and that in order to avoid catastrophic breakdown of climate or ecosystem, there is a need for a comprehensive reform in global financial institutions similar in scale to that undertaken at Bretton Woods in 1944. 

With the emergence of an externally consistent green economics and agreement on definitions of potentially contentious terms such as full-cost accountingnatural capital and social capital, the prospect of formal metrics for ecological and social loss or risk has grown less remote through the 1990s.


Legislation permitting corporations to adopt a triple bottom line is under consideration in some jurisdictions, including Minnesota and Oregon.

Some businesses have voluntarily adopted a triple bottom line as part of their articles of incorporation or bylaws, and some have advocated for state laws creating a "Sustainable Corporation" that would grant triple bottom line businesses benefits such as tax breaks.



One of the most established international reporting templates for Sustainability reporting is the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Although this standard is used for Triple Bottom Line Accountability (TBL), this standard has six main areas of reporting: Finance, Environmental, Social, Labor, Human Rights, and Product. The last three are often combined in the Social reporting for TBL purposes.

Although there are standards for measurements, these standards are not used to compare one company against another. Just as in the financial world, the bottom line of the financial section may indicate the total net profit or loss, the company is judged by how it did financially according to the financial goals that it set and revealed. Even if a company exceeds its goals financially, it is often looked at as a company that is not in control of its growth and investors are therefore wary.

So it is with environmental and social reporting. A company is not measured by raw numbers, nor by comparison with other companies, but rather by the goals that it set and then either met or failed to meet. As such, transparency is a major element in Sustainability Reporting.

Sustainability Reporting From Wikipedia:

Although the GRI is independent, it remains a collaborating center of UNEP and works in cooperation with the United Nations Global Compact.

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a non-profit organization that promotes economic sustainability. It produces one of the world's most prevalent standards for sustainability reporting — also known as ecological footprint reporting, environmental social governance(ESG) reporting, triple bottom line (TBL) reporting, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting. GRI seeks to make sustainability reporting by all organizations as routine as, and comparable to, financial reporting.

A sustainability report is an organizational report that gives information about economic, environmental, social and governance performance.

GRI Guidelines are regarded to be widely used. More than 4,000 organizations from 60 countries use the Guidelines to produce their sustainability reports. (View the world’s reporters at the GRI Sustainability Disclosure Database.) GRI Guidelines apply to corporate businesses, public agencies, smaller enterprises, NGOs, industry groups and others. For municipal governments, they have generally been subsumed by similar guidelines from the UN ICLEI.

Environmental reporting guidelines

The Log aims to harmonize reporting standards for all organizations, of whatever size and geographical origin, on a range of issues with the aim of elevating the status of environmental reporting with that of, for example, financial auditing. Environmental transparency is one of the main areas of business under the scope of the GRI. As outlined in this section the GRI encourages participants to report on their environmental performance using specific criteria. The standardized reporting guidelines concerning the environment are contained within the GRI Indicator Protocol Set. The Performance Indicators (PI) includes criteria on energy, biodiversity and emissions. There are 30 environmental indicators ranging from EN1 (materials used by weight) to EN30 (total environmental expenditures by type of investment.

GRI and environmental governance

The GRI is an example of an organization that acts outside of the top-down power command structures associated with government (e.g., quasi-autonomous bodies and regulators). Environmental governance is the multifaceted and multilayered nature of "governing" the borderless and state-indiscriminate natural environment. Unlike major protected policy areas such as finance or defense, the environment requires sovereign states to sign up to treaties and multilateral agreements in order to coordinate action. Sustainability reporting is a more recent concept that encourages businesses and institutions to report on their environmental performance.

Sustainable reporting is, by definition, a way in which organizations assess their own environmental accomplishments and failings, reflect on this performance and subsequently transfer this information into the public domain. This broad concept has been theoretically termed ‘reflexive environmental law’ by some academics. Reflexive environmental law is an approach in which industry is encouraged to ‘self-reflect’ and ‘self-criticize’ the environmental externalities that result as a product of their activity, and thus act on these negative social impacts in a way that dually safeguards growth and protects the environment. There is also concern that the "exponential demand for disclosure", as described by Park et al. 2008, undermines the legitimacy and prestige of the GRI. It is, in other words, operating in a saturated market counting on businesses to volunteer their information to competing agencies. More recent organizations include the Carbon Disclosure Project which has similar aims.

The importance of the GRI in a globalizing world

The collapse of the USSR and the augmentation of capitalist economic systems in Eastern Europe and more recently in ostentatiously self-styled ‘communist’ countries like China, coined “bamboo capitalism”, suggests that this system of economic governance is likely to shape the world economy in the foreseeable future. Proponents of ‘sustainable capitalism’ or ‘conscious capitalism’ would conclude that organizations like the GRI effectively reconcile capitalism and the environment in an otherwise disjointed world. They concede that capitalism is not currently congruous with environmental aims, but it can be modestly redesigned where an emphasis on the GRI and its counterparts play a bigger, more innate role in business reporting. However, academic criticisms of sustainable reporting in a capitalist context abound. Moneva et al. (2006) suggest that many organizations that subscribe to the GRI’s voluntary reporting regime do not improve their performance and can often manipulate the guidelines just to appear more transparent.

Governance of the GRI

The “GRI” refers to the global network of many thousands worldwide that create the Reporting Framework, use it in disclosing their sustainability performance, demand its use by organizations as the basis for information disclosure, or are actively engaged in improving the standard.

The network is supported by an institutional side of the GRI, which is made up of the following governance bodies: Board of Directors, Stakeholder Council, Technical Advisory Committee, Organizational Stakeholders, and a Secretariat. Diverse geographic and sector constituencies are represented in these governance bodies. The GRI headquarters and Secretariat is in AmsterdamThe Netherlands.

GRI History

The GRI was formed by the United States based non-profits Ceres (formerly the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies) and Tellus Institute, with the support of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in 1997. It released an “exposure draft” version of the Sustainability Reporting Guidelines in 1999, the first full version in 2000, the second version was released at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg — where the organization and the Guidelines were also referred to in the Plan of Implementation signed by all attending member states. Later that year it became a permanent institution, with its Secretariat in Amsterdamthe Netherlands. Although the GRI is independent, it remains a collaborating center of UNEP and works in cooperation with the United Nations Global Compact.


On one account, sustainability "concerns the specification of a set of actions to be taken by present persons that will not diminish the prospects of future persons to enjoy levels of consumption, wealth, utility, or welfare comparable to those enjoyed by present persons." Sustainability interfaces with economics through the social and ecological consequences of economic activity. 

Sustainability economics represents: "... a broad interpretation of ecological economics where environmental and ecological variables and issues are basic but part of a multidimensional perspective. Social, cultural, health-related and monetary/financial aspects have to be integrated into the analysis." 

However, the concept of sustainability is much broader than the concepts of sustained yield of welfare, resources, or profit margins. At present, the average per capita consumption of people in the developing world is sustainable but population numbers are increasing and individuals are aspiring to high-consumption Western lifestyles. The developed world population is only increasing slightly but consumption levels are unsustainable. The challenge for sustainability is to curb and manage Western consumption while raising the standard of living of the developing world without increasing its resource use and environmental impact. This must be done by using strategies and technology that break the link between, on the one hand, economic growth and on the other, environmental damage and resource depletion.

Sustainability and a Green Economy

A recent UNEP report proposes a green economy defined as one that “improves human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities”: it "does not favor one political perspective over another but works to minimize excessive depletion of natural capital".

The report makes three key findings: “that greening not only generates increases in wealth, in particular a gain in ecological commons or natural capital, but also (over a period of six years) produces a higher rate of GDP growth”; that there is “an inextricable link between poverty eradication and better maintenance and conservation of the ecological commons, arising from the benefit flows from natural capital that are received directly by the poor”; "in the transition to a green economy, new jobs are created, which in time exceed the losses in “brown economy” jobs. However, there is a period of job losses in transition, which requires investment in re-skilling and re-educating the workforce”.

Treating the environment as an externality may generate short-term profit at the expense of sustainability. Business practices, on the other hand, integrate ecological concerns with social and economic ones (i.e., the triple bottom line). Growth that depletes ecosystem services is sometimes termed "uneconomic growth" as it leads to a decline in quality of life. Minimizing such growth can provide opportunities for local businesses. For example, industrial waste can be treated as an "economic resource in the wrong place". The benefits of waste reduction include savings from disposal costs, fewer environmental penalties, and reduced liability insurance. This may lead to increased market share due to an improved public image.  Energy efficiency can also increase profits by reducing costs.

Sustainability as a Business Opportunity

The idea of sustainability as a business opportunity has led to the formation of organizations such as the Sustainability Consortium of the Society for Organizational Learning, the Sustainable Business Institute, and the World Council for Sustainable Development. Research focusing on progressive corporate leaders who have embedded sustainability into commercial strategy has yielded a leadership competency model for sustainability.  The expansion of sustainable business opportunities can contribute to job creation through the introduction of green-collar workers.

From Wikipedia:


At the global scale and in the broadest sense environmental management involves the oceansfreshwater systems, land and atmosphere, but following the sustainability principle of scale it can be equally applied to any ecosystem from a tropical rainforest to a home garden.


At a March 2009 meeting of the Copenhagen Climate Council, 2,500 climate experts from 80 countries issued a keynote statement that there is now "no excuse" for failing to act on global warming and that without strong carbon reduction "abrupt or irreversible" shifts in climate may occur that "will be very difficult for contemporary societies to cope with".  Management of the global atmosphere now involves assessment of all aspects of the carbon cycle to identify opportunities to address human-induced climate change and this has become a major focus of scientific research because of the potential catastrophic effects on biodiversity and human communities (see Energy below).

Freshwater and oceans

Water covers 71% of the Earth's surface. Of this, 97.5% is the salty water of the oceans and only 2.5% freshwater, most of which is locked up in the Antarctic ice sheet. The remaining freshwater is found in glaciers, lakes, rivers, wetlands, the soil, aquifers and atmosphere. Due to the water cycle, fresh water supply is continually replenished by precipitation, however there is still a limited amount necessitating management of this resource. Awareness of the global importance of preserving water for services has only recently emerged as, during the 20th century, more than half the world’s wetlands have been lost along with their valuable environmental services. Increasing urbanization pollutes clean water supplies and much of the world still does not have access to clean, safe water. Greater emphasis is now being placed on the improved management of blue (harvestable) and green (soil water available for plant use) water, and this applies at all scales of water management.

Land use

Loss of biodiversity stems largely from the habitat loss and fragmentation produced by the human appropriation of land for development, forestry and agriculture as natural capital is progressively converted to man-made capital. Land use change is fundamental to the operations of the biosphere because alterations in the relative proportions of land dedicated to urbanisationagricultureforestwoodlandgrassland and pasture have a marked effect on the global water, carbon and nitrogen biogeochemical cycles and this can impact negatively on both natural and human systems. At the local human scale, major sustainability benefits accrue from sustainable parks and gardens and green cities.

Food is essential to life. Feeding more than seven billion human bodies takes a heavy toll on the Earth’s resources. This begins with the appropriation of about 38% of the Earth’s land surface and about 20% of its net primary productivity.  Added to this are the resource-hungry activities of industrial agribusiness – everything from the crop need for irrigation water, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to the resource costs of food packaging, transport (now a major part of global trade) and retail. Environmental problems associated with industrial agriculture and agribusiness are now being addressed through such movements as sustainable agriculture, organic and more sustainable business practices.

Management of human consumption

The underlying driver of direct human impacts on the environment is human consumption.  This impact is reduced by not only consuming less but by also making the full cycle of production, use and disposal more sustainable. Consumption of goods and services can be analyzed and managed at all scales through the chain of consumption, starting with the effects of individual lifestyle choices and spending patterns, through to the resource demands of specific goods and services, the impacts of economic sectors, through national economies to the global economy.  Analysis of consumption patterns relates resource use to the environmental, social and economic impacts at the scale or context under investigation. The ideas of embodied resource use (the total resources needed to produce a product or service), resource intensity, and resource productivity are important tools for understanding the impacts of consumption. Key resource categories relating to human needs are foodenergy, materials and water.


The Sun's energy, stored by plants (primary producers) during photosynthesis, passes through the food chain to other organisms to ultimately power all living processes. Since the industrial revolution the concentrated energy of the Sun stored in fossilized plants as fossil has been a major driver of technology which, in turn, has been the source of both economic and political power. In 2007 climate scientists of the IPCC concluded that there was at least a 90% probability that atmospheric increase in CO2 was human-induced, mostly as a result of fossil fuel emissions but, to a lesser extent from changes in land use. Stabilizing the world’s climate will require high-income countries to reduce their emissions by 60–90% over 2006 levels by 2050 which should hold CO2 levels at 450–650 ppm from current levels of about 380 ppm. Above this level, temperatures could rise by more than 2°C to produce “catastrophic” climate change.  Reduction of current CO2 levels must be achieved against a background of global population increase and developing countries aspiring to energy-intensive high consumption Western lifestyles.


Water security and food security are inextricably linked. In the decade 1951–60 human water withdrawals were four times greater than the previous decade. This rapid increase resulted from scientific and technological developments impacting through the economy – especially the increase in irrigated land, growth in industrial and power sectors, and intensive dam construction on all continents. This altered the water cycle of rivers and lakes, affected their water quality and had a significant impact on the global water cycle.  Currently towards 35% of human water use is unsustainable, drawing on diminishing aquifers and reducing the flows of major rivers: this percentage is likely to increase if climate change impacts become more severe, populations increase, aquifers become progressively depleted and supplies become polluted and unsanitary.  From 1961 to 2001 water demand doubled - agricultural use increased by 75%, industrial use by more than 200%, and domestic use more than 400%.  In the 1990s it was estimated that humans were using 40–50% of the globally available freshwater in the approximate proportion of 70% for agriculture, 22% for industry, and 8% for domestic purposes with total use progressively increasing.


The American Public Health Association (APHA) defines a "sustainable food system" as "one that provides healthy food to meet current food needs while maintaining healthy ecosystems that can also provide food for generations to come with minimal negative impact to the environment. A sustainable food system also encourages local production and distribution infrastructures and makes nutritious food available, accessible, and affordable to all. Further, it is humane and just, protecting farmers and other workers, consumers, and communities."  Concerns about the environmental impacts of agribusiness and the stark contrast between the obesity problems of the Western world and the poverty and food insecurity of the developing world have generated a strong movement towards healthy, sustainable eating as a major component of overall ethical consumerism.  The environmental effects of different dietary patterns depend on many factors, including the proportion of animal and plant foods consumed and the method of food production.  The World Health Organization has published a Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health report which was endorsed by the May 2004 World Health Assembly. It recommends the Mediterranean diet which is associated with health and longevity and is low in meat, rich in fruits and vegetables, low in added sugar and limited salt, and low in saturated fatty acids; the traditional source of fat in the Mediterranean is olive oil, rich in monounsaturated fat. The healthy rice-based Japanese diet is also high in carbohydrates and low in fat. Both diets are low in meat and saturated fats and high in legumes and other vegetables; they are associated with a low incidence of ailments and low environmental impact.

Materials, toxic substances, waste

As global population and affluence has increased, so has the use of various materials increased in volume, diversity and distance transported. Included here are raw materials, minerals, synthetic chemicals (including hazardous substances), manufactured products, food, living organisms and waste.  By 2050, humanity could consume an estimated 140 billion tons of minerals, ores, fossil fuels and biomass per year (three times its current amount) unless the economic growth rate is decoupled from the rate of natural resource consumption. Developed countries' citizens consume an average of 16 tons of those four key resources per capita (ranging up to 40 or more tons per person in some developed countries with resource consumption levels far beyond what is likely sustainable.

Every economic activity produces material that can be classified as waste. To reduce waste industry, business and government are now mimicking nature by turning the waste produced by industrial metabolism into resource. Dematerialization is being encouraged through the ideas of industrial ecologyecodesign and ecolabelling. In addition to the well-established “reduce, reuse and recycle,” shoppers are using their purchasing power for ethical consumerism.

Taken from Wikipedia



Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Reporting is a paradigm shift from a corporation being responsible just to the shareholders to a corporation being responsible to all of its stakeholders – anyone (or group_ which has a vested interest in the sustainability of the corporation. This includes the shareholders, but it also includes the workers, the community that depends on that company, the managers, and the suppliers upstream and the customers downstream. J


Transparency is a very important topic with Social Reporting. Because the company has a responsibility to each of its stakeholders, and has a responsibility to assure all of its stakeholders that it will remain viable not only for the short term but also for the long term, transparency is required.

Taken from Wikipedia


A corporate stakeholder is that which can affect or be affected by the actions of the business as a whole. The stakeholder concept was first used in a 1963 internal memorandum at the Stanford Research Institute. It defined stakeholders as "those groups without whose support the organization would cease to exist." The theory was later developed and championed by R. Edward Freeman in the 1980s. Since then it has gained wide acceptance in business practice and in theorizing relating to management, corporate, business purpose and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

The term has been broadened to include anyone who has an interest in a matter.

Types of stakeholders

Any action taken by any organization or any group might affect those people who are linked with them in the private sector. For examples these are parents, children, customers, owners, employees, associates, partners, contractors, and suppliers, people that are related or located nearby.

Primary Stakeholders - usually internal stakeholders are those that engage in economic transactions with the business. (For example stockholders, customers, suppliers, creditors, and employees)

Secondary Stakeholders - usually external stakeholders are those who - although they do not engage in direct economic exchange with the business - are affected by or can affect its actions. (For example the general public, communities, activist groups, business support groups and the media)

Company stakeholder mapping

A narrow mapping of a company's stakeholders might identify the following stakeholders:

A broader mapping of a company's stakeholders may also include:

Stakeholders In management

In the last decades of the 20th century, the word "stakeholder" has become more commonly used to mean a person or organization that has a legitimate interest in a project or entity. In discussing the decision-making process for institutions—including large business corporations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations—the concept has been broadened to include everyone with an interest (or "stake") in what the entity does. This includes not only its vendors, employees, and customers, but even members of a community where its offices or factory may affect the local economy or environment. In this context, "stakeholder" includes not only the directors or trustees on its governing board (who are stakeholders in the traditional sense of the word) but also all persons who "paid in" the figurative stake and the persons to whom it may be "paid out" (in the sense of a "payoff" in game theory, meaning the outcome of the transaction). Therefore to effectively engage with a community of stakeholders, the organization’s management needs to be aware of the stakeholders, understand their wants and expectations, understand their attitude (supportive, neutral or opposed) be able to prioritize the members of the overall community to focus the organization’s scarce resources on the most significant stakeholders.


  • For example, in the case of a professional landlord undertaking the refurbishment of some rented housing that is occupied while the work is being carried out, key stakeholders would be the residents, neighbors (for whom the work is a nuisance), and the tenancy management team and housing maintenance team employed by the landlord. Other stakeholders would be funders and the design and construction team.

The holders of each separate kind of interest in the entity's affairs are called a constituency, so there may be a constituency of stockholders, a constituency of adjoining property owners, a constituency of banks the entity owes money to, and so on. In that usage, "constituent" is a synonym for "stakeholder."

Stakeholders as a corporate responsibility

In the field of corporate governance and corporate responsibility, a major debate is ongoing about whether the firm or company should be managed for stakeholders, stockholders (shareholders), or customers. Proponents in favor of stakeholders may base their arguments on the following four key assertions:

1) Value can best be created by trying to maximize joint outcomes. For example, according to this thinking, programs that satisfy both employees' needs and stockholders' wants are doubly valuable because they address two legitimate sets of stakeholders at the same time. There is even evidence that the combined effects of such a policy are not only additive but even multiplicative. For instance, by simultaneously addressing customer wishes in addition to employee and stockholder interests, both of the latter two groups also benefit from increased sales.

2) Supporters also take issue with the preeminent role given to stockholders by many business thinkers, especially in the past. The argument is that debt holders, employees, and suppliers also make contributions and take risks in creating a successful firm.

3) These normative arguments would matter little if stockholders (shareholders) had complete control in guiding the firm. However, many believe that due to certain kinds of board of directors’ structures, top managers like CEOs are mostly in control of the firm.

4) The greatest value of a company is its image and brand. By attempting to fulfill the needs and wants of many different people ranging from the local population and customers to their own employees and owners, companies can prevent damage to their image and brand, prevent losing large amounts of sales and disgruntled customers, and prevent costly legal expenses. While the stakeholder view has an increased cost, many firms have decided that the concept improves their image, increases sales, reduces the risks of liability for corporate negligence, and makes them less likely to be targeted by pressure groups, campaigning groups and NGOs.

Corporate Transparency

Corporate transparency describes the extent to which a corporation's actions are observable by outsiders. This is a consequence of regulation, local norms, and the set of information, privacy, and business policies concerning corporate decision making and operations openness to employees, stakeholders, shareholders and the general public.

Standard & Poor's has included a definition of corporate transparency in its GAMMA Methodology aimed at analysis and assessment of corporate governance. As a part of this work, Standard & Poor's Governance Services publishes the Transparency Index which calculates the average score for the largest public companies in various countries.

Corporate transparency describes the extent to which a corporation's actions are observable by outsiders. This is a consequence of regulation, local norms, and the set of information, privacy, and business policies concerning corporate decision making and operations openness to employees, stakeholders, shareholders and the general public. Standard & Poor's has included a definition of corporate transparency in its GAMMA Methodology aimed at analysis and assessment of corporate governance. As a part of this work, Standard & Poor's Governance Services publishes the Transparency Index calculated as the average score for the largest public companies in various countries. Transparency International publishes an index of corporate transparency based on public disclosure of anti-corruption programs and country-by-country reporting. Corporate transparency is also used to refer to radical transparency in corporate governance. Transparency Index calculated as the average score for the largest public companies in various countries. Transparency International publishes an index of corporate transparency based on public disclosure of anti-corruption programs and country-by-country reporting.

Higher Education

Many organizations and consortiums have been formed to foster Sustainability Reporting in colleges and universities both at the lower level and especially at the graduate levels. The following are just a few examples.

AASHE: Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education

AASHE - Our Mission

AASHE’s mission is to empower higher education to lead the sustainability transformation. We do this by providing resources, professional development, and a network of support to enable institutions of higher education to model and advance sustainability in everything they do, from governance and operations to education and research.

AASHE - Our Vision

AASHE envisions a prosperous, equitable, and ecologically healthy world. In such a world, higher education plays a vital role in ensuring that people have an understanding of the interdependencies between environmental, social, and economic forces and the skills and abilities to meet sustainability challenges.

AASHE - Our Goals (Adopted June 4, 2011 as Goals for 2015)

Extending its role as a thought leader for higher education sustainability*, AASHE will:

  1. Deliver services that increase its value to a growing and diverse membership and will increase its impact on sustainability in higher education;

  2. Convene experts and collect, evaluate, and disseminate information and tools to increase the understanding of sustainability and its relevance to higher education stakeholders;

  3. Support and enable higher education to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the impacts of global climate disruption;

  4. Lead the transformation of educational practices (including the curriculum) to ensure that all students acquire the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to meet sustainability challenges;

  5. Lead the assessment and reporting of metrics of sustainably in higher education for the purpose of driving improvements in sustainable practices and education through its Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS).

*AASHE defines sustainability in an inclusive way, encompassing human and ecological health, social justice, secure livelihoods, and a better world for all generations

Net Impact:

Net Impact is a leading nonprofit that empowers a new generation to use their careers to drive transformational change in the workplace and the world.

At the heart of our community are over 50,000 student and professional leaders from over 300 volunteer-led chapters across the globe working for a sustainable future. Together, we make a net impact that transforms our lives, our organizations, and the world.

Net Impact - What we do

The problems our world faces are huge, from poverty to climate change to global health epidemics. What if we could mobilize more people to dedicate more time on the job to making an impact? We believe this shift is essential to creating a more sustainable world.

Every day, Net Impact empowers a new generation to drive social and environmental change on campus and throughout their careers. We provide the network and resources to inspire emerging leaders to build successful "impact careers" – either by working in jobs dedicated to change or by bringing a social and environmental lens to traditional business roles.

Net Impact - How we do it

Net Impact supports student and professional leaders wherever they are on their impact career path.

Net Impact - We work with students...

Dynamic campus leadership programs give students opportunities to build skills and drive action.

Net Impact - We work with job seekers...

Online career resources help guide job seekers on their impact career path.

  • A growing Impact at Work program supports professionals to advocate for sustainability and community impact in the workplace.

  • Professional chapters provide a like-minded community and networking events to help drive change on the job.

Net Impact - We work with partners...

We partner with forward-thinking businesses and nonprofits who want to engage in meaningful ways with next-generation leaders on campus and throughout their careers.

Net Impact - We work across our network...

Our flagship annual conference attracts 2500+ passionate new leaders.

  • The Net Impact Conference is the leading forum for next generation leaders who want to use their careers for good.

  • Join us in Minneapolis in November as we convene our community of thousands of thinkers, doers and dreamers to supercharge world change.


Many governments at all levels have started to focus on Sustainability Reporting. Other countries such as Sweden and Australia have incorporated the principles of Sustainability Reporting into all levels of the governmental reports. (Australia is probably the most advance country in the world regarding Sustainability Reporting.) Following are some web sites promoting Sustainability Reporting here in the United States.

US Federal Level:

Leading by Example in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance

As the largest consumer of energy in the American economy, it is the Federal Government’s responsibility to lead by example towards a clean energy economy.

With more than 1.8 million civilian employees, 500,000 buildings, and $500 billion in annual purchasing power, the Federal Government has a responsibility to lead by example when it comes to its environmental, energy, and economic performance. Demonstrating a commitment to this principle, President Obama signed Executive Order 13514 on Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance in October 2009 that directed Federal agencies to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, eliminate waste, improve energy and water performance, and leverage Federal purchasing power to support innovation and entrepreneurship in clean energy technologies and environmentally-responsible products.

To learn more about how the Federal Government is helping to move the nation to a clean energy economy by leading by example, read the President’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Futurereleased in March 2011.

Featured Story: Implementation of Executive Order 13514 on Federal Sustainability

As the Federal Government moves forward to implement Executive Order 13514, agencies are implementing specific goals and targets. Agencies have reported on their status and planned milestones toward meeting specific targets and goals. Learn More

Reduce Greenhouse Gas Pollution

Executive Order 13514 requires Federal agencies to measure, report, and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution from agency operations to reduce waste, increase efficiency, and cut costs. In 2010, President Obama announced that the Federal Government will reduce its direct greenhouse gas emissions, such as those from fuels and building energy use, by 28 percent by 2020 and will reduce its indirect greenhouse gas emissions, such as those from employee business travel and employee commuting, by 13 percent by 2020. By meeting these two goals, the Federal Government could save up to $11 billion in energy costs over the next decade and eliminate the equivalent of 235 million barrels of oil from its own activities.

The Federal Government’s progress towards meeting the GHG targets will be accomplished by holding agencies accountable for achieving related statutory and executive order goals and the individual targets they identified in their annual Sustainability Plans, through the OMB scorecard process, and monitoring of agency comprehensive GHG inventories on an annual basis beginning in January 2011. The President directed CEQ to issue guidance for GHG accounting and reporting for Federal agencies. The Final Federal Guidance for Greenhouse Gas Accounting and Reporting can be found here.

In April 2011, the White House Council on Environmental Quality released the first-ever comprehensive Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Inventory for the Federal Government, which accounts for the GHG emissions associated with the Federal Government’s operations in 2010.

The Federal Government's GHG inventory for 2010 was 66.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions (MMTCO2e). The 2010 GHG inventory shows that the Federal Government successfully reduced GHG pollution by 2.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions (MMTCO2e) since its 2008 baseline, and is on track to meeting the 2020 Federal GHG pollution reduction target.

Federal agency and department FY 2010 GHG emissions summaries can be found at

Hold Agencies Accountable for Results

On May 31, 2013, Federal agencies released their annual Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Sustainability and Energy Scorecards. These scorecards help agencies identify, target and track the best opportunities to lead by example in clean energy; and hold them accountable for meeting annual energy, water, pollution, and waste reduction targets. Based on scorecard benchmarks, each agency will update its annual Sustainability Plan to expand on successes and address areas needing improvement. 

 Since 2006, OMB has used the scorecard process to evaluate Federal agencies’ performance in achieving energy, transportation, and environmental goals. To streamline the evaluation process, make it more transparent, and align it with the goals of Executive Order 13514, OMB combined past scorecard metrics into a single OMB Sustainability/ Energy scorecard.

 Through the OMB scorecard process, agencies are assessed on energy and water intensity reductions; fleet petroleum reduction; greenhouse gas emissions; green building practices; and, renewable energy use. Agencies are also evaluated on their progress towards implementing additional statutory or Executive Order targets and goals reflected in their annual Sustainability Plans, such as green purchasing and electronics stewardship. CEQ and OMB work with agency leadership to craft strategies for improvement and provide additional support and assistance as needed.



The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, located in Montpelier, Vermont, was created by the Vermont Legislature in 1995 to accelerate the development of Vermont’s green economy. We provide early stage grant fundingtechnical assistance, and loans to entrepreneurs, businesses, farmers, networks and others interested in developing jobs and markets in the green economy. VSJF currently has 9 staff and 11 board members.

Jobs or the environment? The early 1990s were characterized by a debate pitting environmental protection against economic development. Many said it was one or the other, that both could not exist at the same time. But in 1995, a group of successful entrepreneurs within Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility saw the need to transcend this divide. Sustainable development was a new idea at the time and it provided the group with a theme, a vision, and goals to work toward: Vermont could meet the economic needs of its citizens—without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs—by greening its economy, promoting social justice and equity, and practicing stewardship of its natural, built, and cultural environments.

This group, which called themselves the Sustainable Jobs Coalition, began crafting legislation to launch an organization that could provide early stage funding and technical assistance to entrepreneurs, businesses, farmers, networks and others interested in developing a green economy. With bi-partisan support from the Vermont Legislature, the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund was created in 1995. The name of the organization was meant to reflect the proposition that accelerating the development of new markets for sustainably produced goods and services would lead to the creation of new environmentally-friendly and community-supporting jobs. 


Indianapolis, Indiana:

The fourth annual Sustainability Report to our Community provides an in-depth look at the City’s progress towards sustainability in 2012. The Office of Sustainability is making significant strides toward making Indianapolis a more livable city for all residents, all while creating better tools to help track and report the City’s sustainability advancement and developing measureable goals for the future.

The Office of Sustainability has defined a sustainable community as one with a strong economy, a healthy environment and a focus on the well-being of residents. Mirroring the framework established by the Sustainability Tool for Assessing and Ranking (STAR) Communities program, the Sustainability Report identifies major accomplishment in seven benchmark categories critical to achieving the mission of making Indianapolis the most sustainable city in the Midwest.

  • Natural Systems: A community’s natural systems provide a number of economic and quality-of-life benefits that contribute to sustainability.

  • Economy & Jobs: A healthy economy and strong jobs climate are a foundational aspect for building sustainable communities.

  • Built Environment: Healthy communities build environments in which all citizens can live, work and play.

  • Climate & Energy: Recognizing the scarcity of all resources and minimizing waste will help the City achieve its long-term goals for sustainability.

  • Education & Arts: Successful communities recognize the value of a diverse, vibrant, educated and connected populace.

  • Health & Safety: Encouraging active lifestyles and accessible care increases the livability of any community.

  • Equity & Empowerment: Sustainable communities allocate resources and opportunities fairly so all people in a community thrive.

The Sustainability Report to our Community is intended not only to highlight the City’s success stories of the past year, but also to be a resource guide for residents and businesses. The report aims to share sustainable best practices to bolster economic development, create jobs, save energy, reduce costs, improve connectivity, reduce pollution and enhance the quality of life.

The Office of Sustainability is committed to leading by example and engaging government, community and business stakeholders. With a strong foundation in place, and with your continued support, 2013 will be a hallmark year for sustainability in Indianapolis