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The Sustainability Balanced Scorecard: A Systematic Review of Architectures

Abstract

The increasing strategic importance of environmental, social and ethical issues as well as related performance measures has spurred interest in corporate sustainability performance measurement and management systems. This paper focuses on the balanced scorecard (BSC), a performance measurement and management system aiming at balancing financial and non-financial as well as short and long-term measures. Modifications to the original BSC which explicitly consider environmental, social or ethical issues are often referred to as sustainability balanced scorecards (SBSCs). There is much scholarly discussion about SBSC architecture and how it can be designed to relate performance dimensions, strategic objectives and the logical links among these elements. To synthesise the widely scattered research findings and publications on the SBSC, we conducted a thematic analysis based on a systematic literature review containing 69 relevant articles spanning a period of two decades. We found that sustainability-oriented modifications of the BSC architecture are motivated by instrumental, social/political or normative theoretical perspectives. Moreover, these modifications can be mapped with a typology of generic SBSC architectures. The first dimension of the typology describes the hierarchy between performance perspectives and strategic objectives and how it is related to the organisational value system. The second dimension describes how sustainability-related strategic objectives are integrated into SBSC performance perspectives and how this is related to corporate sustainability strategy. This study contributes to the development of the emerging SBSC literature and practice and, more generally, to research on corporate sustainability performance measurement and management. We conclude with a research agenda and implications for management.

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Notes

  1. Although adaptations were necessary to the circumstances of each database, the generic search string used is ‘(Sustainability OR Ecological OR Eco OR Environmental OR Green OR Greenish OR Greening OR Social OR Societal OR Community OR Stakeholder OR Ethics OR Ethical OR CSR OR Responsive) AND (Balanced scorecard OR Business scorecard OR BSC)’.

  2. We used a social and political perspective as indicated by Gray et al. (1995). This covers both political and integrated perspectives introduced by Garriga and Melé (2004).

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Acknowledgments

We are thankful for the valuable comments by four anonymous reviewers. Furthermore, we would like to thank various discussants and two reviewers of the paper at the British Academy of Management Conference 2013 (session on performance management). Further, we appreciate the intense discussions with Professor Sven Modell and Roger Burritt on an earlier version of the paper.

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Correspondence to Erik G. Hansen.

Appendix: Inclusion/Exclusion Criteria

Appendix: Inclusion/Exclusion Criteria

See Table 4.

Table 4 Inclusion and exclusion criteria for the SBSC systematic review

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Hansen, E.G., Schaltegger, S. The Sustainability Balanced Scorecard: A Systematic Review of Architectures. J Bus Ethics 133, 193–221 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-014-2340-3

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Keywords

  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR)
  • Corporate sustainability
  • Performance management and measurement
  • Balanced scorecard
  • Strategy maps
  • Systematic literature review