Why the Business Case for Sustainability Matters

Research output: Working paper


This paper explores the need to explore the business case for sustainability within the context of the global standards and certifications industry. A wide range of standards and certifications provide assurance around the sustainability of business practices usually via an audit-based process whose primary goal is to establish whether a business is compliant against a core set of criteria. This
compliance-based approach is increasingly coming under criticism as it is not seen to facilitate improvements in overall performance. Drawing upon research conducted in the horticultural sector in South Africa, this paper outlines some of the shortcomings of the compliance-based approach and then considers how things can be done better by developing models which focus upon Continuous
Improvement in performance.
Wider debates within the certification and standards field are reflected upon and a holistic model is proposed, which shifts the emphasis to performance rather than compliance. The paper concludes by stating the imperative for research to be an integral component of the Continuous Improvement process. Such research can elucidate the relationships between specific business practices and
sustainable outcomes. This is important for ensuring that training and support offered to businesses are appropriately targeted and for enabling better business planning. Furthermore, research can demonstrate the benefits to business of specific sustainable practices. In this way the business case
for sustainability can be articulated and the notion that sustainability is a ‘luxury’ can be dispelled.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCoventry
PublisherCoventry University
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - May 2018

Publication series

NameWhite Paper series

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