PURPOSE: To determine the level of sustainability embeddedness in strategising by investigating the public and external communication of companies.
PROBLEM INVESTIGATED: The extent to which sustainability is embedded in the elements of strategy formulation and implementation (and not merely surface-level statements and claims)
DESIGN: The researchers designed a measurement tool and scale, the Strategising for Sustainability Index (SSI), based on researched elements of strategising and recent literature on the topic of sustainability and strategy integration. Merit for strategising for sustainability was given to a company on the basis of its fulfilling the relevant criteria. The JSE Top 40 listed companies on the All Share Index as of March 2011 were selected as a purposive sample. Each company's data and each element of the scorecard were judged on a Likert-type five-point scale, with higher scores indicating higher levels of embeddedness in the strategy. A comprehensive evaluation sheet was used to judge the presented data individually and independently for each element of the scorecard instrument.
FINDINGS: Ten elements were found relevant and represented: compliance (2 elements); strategy formulation (4 elements); and strategy implementation (4 elements). The findings show wide variation in overall scores. Almost all companies satisfied the compliance requirements but variations were observed in both formulation and implementation embeddedness. The SSI tool has discrimination value despite a relatively complex judging process. The proposed SSI measurement challenges other determinants of sustainability performance, as it incorporates embeddedness of sustainability in strategising. Knowing the level of this could guide management towards directing resources away from 'over-invested' strengths related to sustainability. Considering the scores for the different elements of the instrument would help to prioritise the 'sustainability spend'. Furthermore, the SSI tool directs attention to how sustainability is incorporated in the strategising process.
ORIGINALITY AND VALUE: The measure of the level of embeddedness of sustainability in strategising has not been done before. This study addresses the possible 'window-dressing' claims surrounding sustainability and highlights those companies who have successfully demonstrated that sustainability is not just for reputation purposes and is, in fact, part of their operating as a listed company.
CONCLUSION: Firstly, it was possible to use the SSI framework and the evaluation process and apply it to the sustainability reporting and claims for each firm. Secondly, each element could be judged on the unique scale for the specific element. The SSI measurement tool can be used to describe the level of strategising embeddedness. The SSI tool's framework is based on input of literature and on the foundation of strategic principles. The 5-point scale on the SSI tool serves to describe the achievement of a company for each element. The sustainability claims of these companies varied in embeddedness in the process of strategising. The score is lower for the formulation elements, raising the question of whether some projects are possibly implemented ad hoc to score points, without being necessarily formulated as part of strategy.