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Context-based sustainability (CBS)

Context-Based Sustainability, or CBS, is a compelling new approach to corporate sustainability management (CSM) that takes social, economic and environmental thresholds in the world explicitly into account instead of more or less ignoring them. As such, CBS rivals most of what passes for mainstream practice in CSM, including Corporate Social Responsibility, Eco-Efficiency, Citizenship and the Shared Value doctrine.

The name given to CBS derives from the fact that the use of it involves very deliberate efforts to take contextually relevant circumstances into account when attempting to measure, manage or report the sustainability performance of an organization. These circumstances consist mainly of:

  • Whom an organization’s stakeholders are
  • Impacts on Vital Capitals an organization is either (a) already having, or (b) ought to be having, not having or managing in ways that can affect stakeholder well-being
  • The type, status and sufficiency of such capitals
  • The identity and number of other parties who may be relying on the same capitals for their own well-being
  • The identity and number of other parties who may be co-responsible in some way for helping to produce and/or maintain the same capitals
  • Already-defined sustainability standards of performance that take the above factors explicitly into account

Knowledge of the six factors above makes it possible to define meaningful norms, standards or thresholds for what an organization’s impacts on vital capitals would have to be in order to be sustainable, or in other words to set sustainability standards of performance. Context-based metrics can then be used to measure performance against them, as can goals, strategies and interventions be devised for improving or maintaining performance in non-arbitrary ways. More than anything else, CBS finally makes it possible to answer the question every organization should be asking itself: Are we sustainable, and if not how big is the gap?

For more information on the CBS methodology, click here

The Center for Sustainable Organizations

What differentiates CSO from others in the sustainability arena is its strong commitment to an approach for corporate sustainability measurement, management and reporting that is context-based