Operationalizing Organizational Sustainability and Integrity of Creation

Dr. Robert Sroufe, Duquesne University


Information within this study examines the perceptions of sustainability professionals (vice presidents and global sustainability leaders) as they engage stakeholders in operationalizing sustainability in large organizations. The issues of why and how sustainability is enabled within large, multinational corporations is studied through interviews and exploratory research with a focus on grounded theory development.


A cross-industry sample of 22 organizations recognized by multiple sources (Carbon Disclosure Project, Dow Jones Sustainability Index, Newsweek's Green rankings, GRI, and KLD), as top-performing firms provides context as to how sustainability is measured. Insight includes the role of supply chain collaboration, obstacles and the interrelated connections to performance through the evolution of Environmental Management Systems to contemporary and future Sustainable Operating Systems impacting multiple stakeholders including the environment.


The use of structured interviews, multiple coders, QSR Nvivo software and synthesis of respondents' information provides a foundation for grounded theory development and an integrated approach to integrity of creation enabled by sustainability focused performance measurement used within large organizations.


Findings identify enablers of the continued evolution of the sustainability paradigm and predictions for the future for how businesses integrate integrity of creation through global operations within a three-phased approach to measuring and managing performance. Through better understanding of how these leading firms and professionals in this study operationalize sustainability, the scholarly contributions of this research involve identifying and explaining

  • a grounded theory of sustainability within and across organizations involving why, how, and what they measure
  • the collaborative practices and barriers to working with global supply chains when leveraging sustainability for change management
  • the continued explosion of big data with hundreds of sustainability-performance metrics already in use across organizations
  • a path to a future with Integrated Bottom Line (IBL) not single bottom line (financial) performance measurement.