In the last decade sustainability has gained significant attention in the agendas of organizations and policy makers. Sustainability practices have been introduced by companies through more efficient processes, new “green” product lines, and as leverage for innovative business models. Business innovations have thus urged companies to equip themselves with proper reporting tools able to depict their performance according to the triple bottom line principles of economic, social, and environmental sustainability. Existing frameworks for sustainability assessment at company level (e.g. Asset4, GRI, CDP) focus mostly on public companies or large organizations, and leave small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) behind, even though they represent 99% of all European businesses, 67% for number of employees and 58% for value added; also, they hardly provide standardized measures for assessing sustainability practices in companies.
The Sustainability Measurement and Management Laboratory (SuMM Lab) aims to overcome such gaps in both theory and practice of sustainability measurement by acting as a permanent observatory assessing and reporting company’s performance accordingly to environmental and social sustainability metrics. The project was launched in 2016 with an assessment of small, medium and large-size Italian companies of different industrial sectors, and offers new insights to businesses, academia, and education on how Italian companies are behaving and acting concerning sustainability.
The SuMM Lab acts as a permanent observatory aiming to explore and compare the disclosure level of sustainability-related practices of small, medium and large organisations and different industrial sectors. This objective is accomplished by providing a structured database containing environmental and social sustainability-related data disclosed by companies coming from different industries. Companies are currently striving for suitable tools and techniques to support their transition towards more sustainable models of production and consumption. Mapping sustainability practices developed by companies offers opportunities for businesses and policy makers to assess the state-of-the-art and explore the drivers of online sustainability disclosure. Moreover, considering the challenges posed by progressively stringent regulations and the increasing attention of costumers to sustainability issues, this observatory offers a benchmark for companies and industrial sectors, that could support competitive analysis and strategic planning,. Insights from the SuMM Lab may represent the baseline for setting roadmaps for organizations to cope with the implementation of SDGs into organizational processes and contribute to the construction of sustainable value networks.