The Sustainability Balanced Scorecard: A Systematic Review of Architectures

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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.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)193-221
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - 01.01.2016