Many Sustainability Performance Indicators are False Leads

photo by freewine

photo by freewine

Most managers, public or private, have a tendency to look for performance indicators that they can measure. This seems logical–you want to know how you are doing, so you look for acceptable ways to quantify your performance such as LEED building ratings, or how a supply chain is rated in terms of fair trade, or how much carbon you have as a footprint. Indicators gives a sense of security because you feel like they can tell you how much of a difference you’re making, or that they can predict, like an early warning system, when things might go wrong.

Unfortunately, most of the time this does not happen. Indicators are often so off-base that they can cause disaster for the company or the environment. That is because most managers reduce performance indicators to what they can measure easily and directly. It seems so obvious that we cannot even conceive of another way to do this.


1 Comment

  1. D. Jaber

    10 years ago

    The maximum sustainable yield approach stems from a need for certainty and control. A book on Cherokee wisdom that I came across offers an alternative approach. To ensure sustainable plant yields, what’s the rule? . . . harvest every fourth plant.

    (I’ll let others think about this before explaining)

    Relatively-robust alternative rules perhaps developed in thousands of years of indigenous trial and error in trying to capture system complexity.

    Thank you for your post.

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