Companies on the Scale

Comparing and Benchmarking the Sustainability Performance of Businesses


Address correspondence to:
Dr. Thomas Wiedmann
Centre for Sustainability Accounting (CenSA)
Innovation Centre
Innovation Way
York Science Park
York, YO10 5DG,
United Kingdom


A determination of the sustainability performance of a company ought to fulfill certain requirements. It has to take into account the direct impacts from on-site processes as well as indirect impacts embodied in the supply chains of a company. This life cycle thinking is the common theme of popular footprint analyses, such as carbon, ecological, or water footprinting. All these indicators can be incorporated into one common and consistent accounting and reporting scheme based on economic input−output analysis, extended with data from all three dimensions of sustainability. We introduce such a triple-bottom-line accounting framework and software tool and apply it in a case study of a small company in the United Kingdom. Results include absolute impacts and relative intensities of indicators and are put into perspective by a benchmark comparison with the economic sector to which the company belongs. Production layer decomposition and structural path analysis provide further valuable detail, identifying the amount and location of triple-bottom-line impacts in individual upstream supply chains. The concept of shared responsibility has been applied to avoid double-counting and noncomparability of results. Although in this work we employ a single-region model for the sake of illustration, we discuss how to extend our ideas to international supply chains. We discuss the limitations of the approach and the implications for corporate sustainability.