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SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT THROUGH GLOBAL PERFORMANCE

Mirela-Oana Pintea1
Assistant Professor, PhD. Candidate, Babe-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, email:
mirela.pintea@econ.ubbcluj.ro
Liviu-Daniel Deceanu2
Assistant Professor, PhD. Candidate, Babe-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, email:
liviu.deceanu@econ.ubbcluj.ro
Abstract
Sustainable development is the macroeconomic concept of global performance. The three pillars of sustainable development,
namely economic, environmental and social can be found at the level of a company through its overall performance. So,
nowadays we cant speak only of financial performance without mentioning the social and environmental performance. A
company reaches its goal of performance not only if achieves its financial (economic) goals but also if is simultaneously
responsible regarding its employees, customers and the community in which it operates.
Sustainable development is a way in which we perform the everyday activity, a way to act to ensure a balance between the limits
imposed by the environment, the needs of present and the future needs. Referring mainly to economic entities we define
sustainable development as a new philosophy of development, to assure business sustainability in a turbulent and constantly
evolving environment.
Keywords: sustainable development, global performance, social responsibility, environmental performance.

1. Introduction
Currently the main objective of an organization is not simply to obtain profit. To achieve sustainable development at
the level of organizations they must collect performance at three dimensions: environmental, economic and social. In
the current macroeconomic context ignoring social and environmental issues can lead to loss of international market
shares of large corporations, more than this, they are forced to bear costs of greening the area of activity and spend
considerable sums for loss control to regain consumer confidence.
If in the last century the fore was on financial performance, companies have now realized that this is only the
outcome of the race, but the race itself and the vector is the success of today's racing, in the context of sustainable
development of society, is what we call overall performance. Bachet since 1998 found that performance should not
be reduced to the sum of partial performances, considering that performance is "an emergent property that shouldnt
be reduced to the amount of partial performances, but to an overall performance which is based on a virtuous link
between the economic and social and on a long-term concern for success." [3]
Each company should consider a "fair evaluation" of performance: the economic dimension, the environmental
dimension and the social one. Overall performance of the company is defined as aggregating economic performance,
social performance and environmental performance. So always, the overall performance of a company will be valued
by the exchange with the environment. The three dimensions mentioned are embedded in what is called Triple
Bottom Line (TBL), a concept introduced in literature by Elkington in 1980. The concept of Triple Bottom Line
(TBL) focuses entities not only on the economic value added, but also on social and environmental values that they
create or, conversely, destroy.

2. Sustainable development Literature review


1

Ph.D Candidate, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Babe-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania , Ph.D.
scholarship, Project co-financed by the SECTORAL OPERATIONAL PROGRAM FOR HUMAN RESOURCES
DEVELOPMENT 2007 2013.
2

Idem 1

What is sustainable development? The best known definition of this concept is mentioned in Our Common Future or
"Bruntland Report" prepared by the World Council on Environment and Development in 1987, which gives the
following definition of the concept: sustainable development is the development that fulfills the presents needs
without compromising the ability of future generations to fulfill their own needs 3. It seeks to not compromise the
environment's ability to produce for future generations and this feature is captured very well in what we call
sustainability and its weaknesses are as follows: population, climate change and energy consumption. In 1992 the
World Summit in Rio de Janeiro has developed and adopted Agenda 21 as a tool to promote the concept of
sustainable development. It argues that sustainable development is that development that will not damage and does
not compromise the environmental, economic and social development, which depends on the continuous
development[18].
"Sustainable development is loyalty against future" [29]. We believe that sustainable development is the concept that
best describes the present and future. According to Tietenberg (Tietenberg, 1984) if a project maximizes the value of
the present benefits but with loss of future generations it should have a share in present earnings to be set aside,
whereas an inter generations compensation fund.
Analyzing the literature we found that there isnt a generally accepted definition of this concept from both
practitioners and academics [26] although in this moment there are over 100 definitions in circulation [18].
Development is represented by highlighting the following objectives[37]:
Economic (creating wealth for all on the base of sustainable production and consumption);
Environmental (conservation and management of the resources)
Social (social equity and participation of all groups).

How can we define sustainable development taking into account these three objectives? Sustainable development is
the one that is based on the principle that the three dimensions must be balanced to avoid prioritization of an
objective on the expense of the other two.
At the level of organizations operationalization of the concept of sustainable development is achieved through the
concept of either overall performance of the organization or societal responsibility. And for this we need the concept
introduced by Elkington, Triple Bottom Line that involves economic prosperity, environmental compliance and
improve social cohesion [30] So TBL or Triple balance can be defined as an approach for measuring organization's
overall performance according to its triple contribution to the three aspects mentioned above. It is an approach that
takes into account the financial result, the social and environmental balance of organizations [38].
There are others voices that do not entirely agree with this approach, saying it was incomplete. Various authors like
Neculai Tabr, Emil Horomnea, Marcel Nu and Roxana Dicu believe that sustainable development should not be
reduced to measuring the three dimensions, it must be added also the interaction between them. They believe that
the true value added of sustainable development regards the management of interactions between the three
dimensions" (Tabr et. all., 2007:52). Thus, it is proposed a new concept, namely the integrated performance.
Considering the term sustainable from the expression we are discussing, sustainable development can be defined
as a "development within the carrying capacity [31,9,18]. So what is sustainability? According to Dragomir [12]
sustainability is a concept that implies a fair allocation of resources regarding processes run on a global scale. In this
context, equity assumes responsibility for the rational use of resources for opportunities of present generation, so as
not to impede the opportunities of future generations. Brundtland United Nations Committee in 1989 gives the
definition of sustainability which in 1987 was awarded to sustainable development. So according to him these two
terms are synonymous.

WCED, 1987.

But there are a number of authors who claim that the organization must make a distinction between those two terms,
namely sustainability and sustainable development [35]. So, according to them sustainable development is the
process that ensures the sustainability of an organization, it is the ultimate goal of the organization. Here we remind
of Bouquin's words that we can extrapolate defining sustainability as the outcome of the race and sustainable
development as the race for sustainability, the vector of future successes. Sustainability is an objective that aims to be
achieved at the entitys level and sustainable development is the macroeconomic principle.
Another concept of great development that is considered the foundation of sustainable development is social
responsibility, as defined by the European Commission ad a concept that means the voluntary integration, by
enterprises, of social and environmental concerns into their business and their relationships with stakeholders. Ienciu
presents the relation between sustainable development, sustainability and social responsibility as follows [18].
Figure 1. Relation between sustainable development, sustainability and social responsibility
Sustainable Development

Sustainability

Social Responsibility
Profit

Society

Environment

Source:Ienciu, 2009:23

3. Overall performance - microeconomic concept of sustainable development


In the current globalization of world economy, a company that registers performance is a "company that creates
added value for its shareholders, satisfies customers demand, takes into account the opinion of employees and
protects the environment. Thus, ownership is pleased that the company has achieved the desired return, customers
have confidence in the future of the company and in the quality of its products and services, companys employees
are proud of where they work, and society benefits through policy adopted by the enterprise, of environmental
protection[21].
In a world of competition that has gained increased impetus as a result of environmental change and increased risk
with increased financial and economic turmoil and with the internationalization of trade in goods and capital,
achieving "excellence" in business is the path of survival and development of businesses in a competitive economy.
Peter and R.W. T.J Waterman in 1995 likened the concept of performance with excellence, today a fundamental
criterion for any organization that is founded on four essential factors: the efficiency of the organization, social
identity, achievement and reputation of the organization.
One way to achieve excellence is performance, now it is talked more about the overall performance. This new
approach to performance is known as sustainable development, which has three objectives: increasing economic and
financial performance of the company, effective development of environment and encouraging social development.
Thus we can say that overall performance is the sum of economic and financial performance, environmental and

social performance. According to some Romanian authors the concept of global performance is used to evaluate
sustainable development strategies and to report on the societal responsibilities of different partners [37].
In Romania, there were also concerns towards the approach performance from a global perspective, especially in the
context of national economic approaches on the line of integration into European Union. We recall in this regard
concerns of authors such as [28,25, 37].
As Bouquin (2001) says in his paper Controle de Gestion if financial performance is just the outcome of the
race, overall performance is the race itself or the vector of future racing success [1]. For long time overall
performance was reduced to the financial dimension. This is to achieve the desired return on shareholders by
turnover and market shares that would lead to continuity of business [37]. In the present financial performance is no
longer sufficient to be able to assess a companys business. So the performance concept has expanded to take into
account social responsibility (a term used by the European Commission) or societal responsibility of the organization
to all stakeholders. It should be noted that this also includes environmental issues.
Overall performance concept is present in the literature to assess the implementation of business strategies in the
context of sustainable development. The concept is the reflection in the management system of the macroeconomic
concept of sustainable development [6]. Marc Lepetit4 defined the overall performance as "a multidimensional
concept, economic, social and societal, financial and environmental, which covers both the company and human
society, the employees and the citizens." For Reynaud overall performance is the aggregation of economic, social
and environmental performance [32].
In the context of sustainable development global performance can be defined as a multidimensional effect, economic,
social and societal, financial and environmental that concerns both organizations and employees, human
communities and citizens [37].
For sustainable development of a company, the strategy and value creation cant be dealt with strictly financial terms.
Corporations must apply the principle of balanced development, based on various aspects. A well-known example is
the concept of multidimensional performance evaluation focused on the theory of Triple Bottom Line. It is a concept
that aims to enhance the non-financial and non-accounting dimensions of performance and responsibility of a
company. The concept of Triple Bottom Line focuses companies not only on the economic value added, but in
particular, on social and environmental values that they create or, conversely, destroy [13].
TBL performance also requires involvement in all three areas of reporting: economic performance, social
performance and environmental performance [23]. So, in general terms, economic performance relates to all aspects
of the companys economic interactions. Traditionally, financial indicators refer to an entity's profitability and aim to
provide useful information for both management and companys shareholders. The environmental dimension of a
company's performance regards the impact on natural systems, including ecosystems, land, air and water.
Environmental performance include information that characterizes the quantity of energy consumed and its origin,
treatments resources, management of exhaust emissions, spills, waste, residues, etc., how to exploit the land and
environmental management.
Social performance can be measured by analyzing impacts of the company on stakeholder locally, nationally and
globally. This can be seen as the companys impact on employees and the local economy, impact that can be
quantified by information on employees (number, wages, holiday bonuses, etc.) or by information about payments to
suppliers (local economy) Social performance focuses on the interactions of the company, engaged human resource
and any other individuals with whom contacts are established. Social performance indicators include: relations
between employees, work safety and health and human resources, the report salary / cost of living, elimination of
discrimination of any kind, local community rights, community development impact, customer satisfaction etc.
Lebas illustrated in 1995 these two new dimensions of performance, the social and environmental performance
through the performance tree [22]:
4

Financial Consultant, a member of a working group of the General Commissariat of Plan, on the overall
performance issues

Figure 2. Performance tree

Source: Lebas, 1995: 25


In the broadest sense, TBL is a philosophy that drives corporate performance. In a narrow sense, the concept refers to
the tactics of measurement, management and reporting of business performance beyond financial dimension and in
terms of an integrated vision of the entity, with clear evidence of the economic, social and environmental impact. To
highlight the social impact (social performance) organizations should refer to its reoccupation concerning health
insurance of population, activities consistent with sustainable development requirements, etc., while the
environmental performance requires actions of the organization in order to protect environment, to give a certain
quality of manufactured a products.
To assess the overall performance of a company we need the applicability of TBL reporting in order to generate
value to the entity. TBL reporting bring to a number of benefits to the companies that apply it [7]:
Implement a system of ethics and corporate governance at all levels of the entity.Currently, most corporate
governance initiatives are limited to senior levels. TBL ensure integration at all levels of the entity's culture,
based on value;
Improve risk management by implementing management systems and by performance monitoring. A better
understanding of risks can lead to more effective decisions in the allocation of resources and business
planning;
Formalize and increase communication with information beneficiaries (financial sector, suppliers,
customers or community). They allow the entity a pro-active aproach of the needs and future requirements;
Attracting and retaining skilled staff by focusing on value and continuity of the entity;
Ability to design performance both within industry and between industries, which can lead to both a
competitive advantage to suppliers and customers, and increase access to finance, while the credit decision
making takes into account non-financial performance.
In the present context, both in Romania and in any economy in the world performance involves "ensuring the
viability of the firm in terms of domestic and international competition, within the restrictions imposed by
sustainable development" [15].

4.

Social and environmental performance -new dimension of performance in the


context of sustainable development

Bunea (2006) reviews three international approaches on performance dimensions that performance as follows in the
next paragraphs [5]. A first approach mentioned is that of Morin, Savoie & Beaudig (1994), which identifies four
dimensions of performance: social - human resources, economic - economic efficiency, political - the legitimacy of
the organization against external and systemic groups - organization sustainability . Another approach that the author
mentions is that of the Jacot & Micaelli in the paper La Performance conomique en entreprise from 1996
supporting the idea de-globalization of performance. According to this two at the level of a company there are four
levels of decision (metapolitical, strategic, tactical and operational) and each level has attached a performance level
(societal, financial, commercial and physically).
The third approach is the one of De La Villarmois. According to this last author "all models that offer a
representation of the concept of performance reach the same conclusion: it is a concept (or construct) difficult to
assimilate because of its multiple dimensions" (quoted by Bunea, 2006). He believes that performance has two
dimensions, namely: social, which includes economic efficiency and sustainability, and the subjective one, which
includes the legitimacy of the organization against external groups and the value of human resources
.
From the literature review we noted that in present social performance is an essential component global performance,
component that we can not omit this scientific approach. Social performance is part of the company's overall
performance in the context of sustainable development, referring to concerns such as company's health insurance,
activities consistent with sustainable development requirements, etc., reason for which it requires an analysis of
social performance so we can form a complete and relevant opinion on a companys activities.
Analysis of social performance of the enterprise requires the expression of this dimension of performance in terms of
social satisfaction, namely human relationships with the company [11]. The term "people" refers in this situation to
different categories such as: employees, customers, managers, community in which that company is operating etc.
Therefore the concept of "social performance" exceeds the boundaries of an organization and refers to both internal
environment and external environment.
Sainsaulieu (quoted by Martins Dos Santos, 1992) in his work Sociologie de lorganisation de lentreprise, refers to
the following points of social performance assessment [33, 34]:
The nature of social relations;
The importance of social conflicts and crises (number, severity, duration, etc.);
Level of satisfaction of employees (this level can be appreciated by domestic public opinion surveys);
Absenteeism and delays in service (or employment de-motivation caused by boring or difficult work);
The social climate of the enterprise (subjective assessment of the ambience at the companys level and
its constituent groups);
Operation of the staff representative institutions;
Operation, the number and outcome measures of quality circles and participation in decisions.
How can we define social performance taking into account the issues mentioned above? A definition is provided by
Savall & Zardet. According to them social performance is defined by the level of satisfaction of stakeholders,
achieved through three levels of quality: quality products appreciated by foreign customers, the quality of the
operation and management quality especially appreciated by the " internal customers (employees, managers) [34].
The social dimension of sustainability refers to the impact that an organization has on social systems within which it
operates. Now we notice that efforts made in terms of measurement (assessment) and management of social
performance are still underdevelopment. The question therefore arises of developing a conceptual framework to
enable a quantitative assessment of data on the social dimension of performance and their comparative analysis with
either standard or data previously established by other companies that work in the same area, to the extent that these
comparisons and evaluations are possible, considering that a part of social performance information is required to be
presented in a descriptive manner.
Measuring social performance has the following characteristics [19]:
Focuses on the company as a whole;
Requires frequent data collection to allow early correction;

Compare with an initial state, taken as a yardstick;


Is externally audited and based on comparable data internally and externally;
Is accessible and meaningful;
Is connected with the future goals that the company proposes;
Should ensure a balance between costs and benefits involved in measuring, reporting and obtaining results.

According to F. Szkely and M. Knirsch companies that evaluate social performance are using a series of indicators
that capture the following aspects [36]:
Human rights: human rights issue arises particularly in the poorest countries in the context of globalization;
Problems at work or those related to employment: it is wanted to assess some aspects of health and safety at
work, continuing education, training, industrial relations, wages, benefits and compensation, working
conditions and employment, etc.
Relations with suppliers: is wished to ensure the diversity of suppliers, are assessing companys policies
regarding the selection and evaluation of providers including the various contractual arrangements with
them;
Community initiatives: the indicators used should reflect the contributions to local economic development,
involvement in the problems of local community, improving personal skills of employees and other matters;
Corporate philanthropy: it wants to know different information on donations made, in presents interest the
total profits before tax and financing of local initiatives by private funds.
The literature which attracted our attention on social performance measurement has been the proposed typology by
Iamadi. According to the author societal (social) performance is measured (assessed) by some relevant areas. The
author has stated the following relevant areas [18]:
rules, codes of conduct;
resources used: this refers to how certain resources are used in the production or various measures to reduce
consumption of certain materials (water polluting products);
internal processes: this refers to various measures of motivation and creation of appropriate social climate
for a company, division of work tasks , etc;
activities: gifts, communicating information to the public / community, social audits and certifications;
consequences: the author refers to the number of dissatisfied customers processes, the stage of staff training;
synthetic and combined approaches.
We consider relevant in this area the document proposed by GRI initiative, so we will try to make a brief overview of
the four directions of actions presented by it, namely:
Labor practices and decent work standards;
Human rights;
Society;
Responsibility for the product.
Environmental performance represents the measurable results of the actions of economic agents to identify, quantify
and solve their environmental problems in order to achieve environmental objectives and targets set by the Authority
of Environmental Protection. The Handbook on Environmental Law Harmonization of the European Union European Commission Working Document, Brussels, the Second issue from 1998 environmental performance is the
measurable results of the environmental management system related to the organization control of its environmental
aspects, based on policy, the general and specific objectives regarding environment.
Environmental performance assessment involves a series of technical knowledge (chemistry, physics, biology, etc..)
which does not form part of the training of persons involved in business management and evaluation of performance
(managers, accountants, auditors, etc.). We see therefore that the evaluation of the environmental dimension of
performance is not an easy task, but is a complex one involving possession vast knowledge. Measuring
environmental performance is a topical issue which presumes above all the choice and implementation of appropriate
assessment tools.

In the context of sustainable development and of the tendency that reporting all dimensions of performance should
become compulsory for all companies, not just recommended, companies should be concerned about environmental
performance evaluation as well for continuing improvement of this dimension of performance. We therefore ask the
question how to do this last goal. I found the answer to this question to Desmazes & Lafontaine[17], according to
which continuous improvement in environmental performance is a process of five stages:
1) leadership commitment through an environmental policy statement;
2) planning objectives;
3) implementing actions to achieve simultaneously the goals and objectives of this policy;
4) examine and evaluate the results and progress achieved;
5) review the environmental management system to improve its effectiveness.
It is thus obvious that an organization should periodically evaluate its environmental performance. Indicators used to
assess environmental performance must be measurable, objective, verifiable and reproducible. Following the
approach developed in this section, we believe that a company is social efficient only when it controls the impact of
its own activities, products and services on the environment. To achieve these goals it needs to review periodically
(as necessary) environmental policy and objectives.

5. Conclusions
Sustainable development and globalization set new standards of performance that exceeds the economic field, both
for domestic companies as well as international ones. So, these standards should be integrated into corporate strategy
development to ensure sustainability of activities undertaken by harmonizing the economic, social and environmental
objectives.
Sustainable development is a concept based on three pillars: economic development, social development and
environmental protection, even if over time it has been brought into question a fourth, namely cultural diversity. To
this macroeconomic concept it can be associate different concepts at microeconomic level among which we remind
overall performance and sustainability.

Why overall performance evaluation is needed? Because as we have seen exclusive financial performance reporting
limits the information provided that is why it has emerged the need to report information on overall performance thus
distinguished also non-financial aspects. In this context, TBL reporting has become an invaluable tool because it
captures the three dimensions of performance: social, environmental and economic.
From the study of literature and practice we founded that environmental dimension has received more attention than
the social dimension in recent years. We believe that in terms of reporting environmental performance an important
aspect is the existence of comparative data for the purposes of presenting information regarding the organization
with information on legislative requirements and achieved industry averages. Trying to achieve a certain level of
environmental performance determines the application of sustainable development strategies of win-win type for
both human society and natural environment.
Accelerated social and economic transformations in global corporations subject corporations to the continued need to
change their business model, the mode of thinking, attitudes, and patterns of interaction with stakeholders. Time
when companies built their business solely around the needs and expectations of the consumer are long gone. Today,
corporations are challenged to meet through performance that reflects the values, interests and expectations of
society. CSR has become a vital part of healthy development of strategy on long term for any organization.
I believe that corporate social responsibility (CSR) refers to the ambition of companies to be involved in both
problems and successes of the community. So a socially responsible corporation is one that manages a profitable
business and takes into account all positive and negative effects in terms of social, economic and environmental
effects it has on society.

6. Acknowledgments
The authors wish to thank for the financial support provided from the program co-financed by THE SECTORAL
OPERATIONAL PROGRAM FOR HUMAN RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT, Contract POSDRU 6/1.5/S/3
"DOCTORAL STUDIES, A MAJOR FACTOR IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND
HUMANISTIC STUDIES".

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