Measuring social, economic and environmental sustainability at the enterprise level: a case study of an Australian Utility Corporation’s Sustainability Report

Davidson, Kathryn & Wilson, Lou (2006) Measuring social, economic and environmental sustainability at the enterprise level: a case study of an Australian Utility Corporation’s Sustainability Report. In Social Change in the 21st Century Conference 2006, 27 October 2006, Carseldine, Brisbane.


The debate on a sustainable future for Australia has focused enterprises on developing triple bottom line or sustainability reports. Enterprises now commonly provide reports to their stakeholders on sustainability. However it is argued in this paper that shortcomings in current reporting practices are limiting the measurement of sustainability. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the most commonly applied consistent framework for enterprises, recommends the application of indicators that consider the inter-relations between the economy, society and the environment. However, these recommendations are not generally being translated into practice by firms. The environmental aspects of enterprise sustainability reports tend to be privileged over the social and economic components. Indicators of the social and economic impact of an enterprise generally draw upon productivity and human relation measurements rather than measures directly relevant to the impact of enterprise actions on the community. To illustrate these arguments we offer a case study of the Australian Gas Light Company, (AGL), 2004 Sustainability Report, and a critique of the GRI. AGL is a large Australian energy company. We argue that inter-related indicators tend not to be considered within enterprise sustainability reports. It is argued that social and economic externalities of enterprises have an impact on surrounding communities and hence should be measured and reported in conjunction with environmental factors. Moreover, these reports should to be developed in a manner that enables the context of sustainability to be adequately explored.

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ID Code: 6089
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Sustainability, Economic, Environmental, Social, Indicators
ISBN: 1741071291
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > SOCIOLOGY (160800) > Social Change (160805)
Divisions: Past > Research Centres > Centre for Social Change Research
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > QUT Carseldine - Humanities & Human Services
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2006 Kathryn Davidson and Lou Wilson
Deposited On: 08 Feb 2007 00:00
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2010 12:37

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