Seeking a sustainable development scoreboard: beyond the agency theory
Lopes, Ilídio Tomás
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Purpose—the concept of Sustainable Development (SD) is embodied in complexities and intrinsic contradictions. Its boundaries are vague, deriving in an unresolved paradox. Development is, in its genesis, linked to economy features and achievements, and sustainability is traditionally associated with ecology and social progress. However, the merger of both can drive the main human freedoms. Countries and companies should monitor their sustainable development indicators using the capabilities allowed by information and communication technologies and through integrated knowledge management systems. This paper aims to provide a standard and conceptual framework for sustainable development performance analysis. Design/methodology/approach—based on the themes and headline indicators, disclosed by the European Union and the SD indicators included in the listed companies’ management reports, a conceptual framework was designed. A content analysis of the sustainability reports, issued by some Portuguese listed companies, has supported our suggestion for a set of key performance indicators, through a balanced scorecard approach. Findings—through a Balanced Scorecard approach we suggest a dynamic framework, which combines an integrated analysis at the country and corporate levels. A set of key performance indicators are also identified, aggregated and integrated in a proposed sustainability scorecard. Research limitations—the set of key indicators included in the framework proposed are not exclusive and can be changed according to the sector and company specificities. The integrated approach that is proposed is dynamic and should be adjusted according to the information management requirements. Practical implications—a conceptual framework was designed through a Balanced Scorecard approach. Based on the agency theory background, companies can provide a standard framework about sustainability key indicators. Management reports are improved towards a better approach between companies and their stakeholders. Originality/value—this paper highlights the boundaries of sustainable development, their complexities, and provides a systematic framework which allows performance monitoring through a selected set of key performance indicators. This dynamic framework can be adjusted in order to reflect the continuous achievements and insights in this scientific field.
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