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Seeing the full picture – the need for context-based measures

By Dr Jim Ormond with Jane Fiona Cumming

Last year, unemployment in the EU bloc fell by 0.8% and Japan contributed $9.32 billion in global development aid. These figures sound positive, but what do they mean? Is lowering unemployment by 0.8% a marked increase in fair jobs? Is $9.32 billion enough to make a significant impact in the global development agenda? These examples demonstrate that without context, it is difficult to understand the full picture and measure impact. So how does context-measurement translate to corporate measurement. 

As part of our latest research we reviewed 220 of the world’s largest companies to understand how they were measuring their impact in relation to planetary boundaries and social thresholds. Specifically, whether they included ‘context-based’ measures expressing their organisational performance relative to planetary limits and social thresholds. With this context, we can more fully understand if their impacts are sustainable.

We found that many companies do not include external context in how they measure impact. Several interesting examples of including context were identified, however, and what became clear is the need for attention to context when measuring progress. For instance…

  1. Measuring how much carbon we emitand the percentage contribution of our emissions to global emissions
  2. Measuring how many young people we employ… and how many were from areas of high youth unemployment
  3. Measuring how many people we provide healthcare products to… and how these address specific global health challenges
  4. Measuring how much water we use… and how much water is available in the overall watershed

In this ‘post-truth’ world, where objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals, there is a need for organisations to measure how they deliver to global targets and communicate that in context to their stakeholders.

For more information and to download our research ‘planetary boundaries and social thresholds: how companies measure up – a practitioner perspective’ - click here

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