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The crippled bottom line – measuring and managing sustainability

Raine Birger Isaksson (Uppsala University, Visby, Sweden AND Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, Sweden)
Rickard Garvare (Department of Business Administration, Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, Sweden)
Mikael Johnson (CTF - Service Research Center/ SAMOT (Service and Market Oriented Transport Research Group), Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden)

International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management

ISSN: 1741-0401

Article publication date: 2 March 2015




Sustainability can be assessed in the dimensions Profit, Planet and People. A problem with the approach is that these dimensions cannot be added. Another problem is that performance seldom is related to global system boundaries. The purpose of this paper is to study the “what” of sustainability by linking this to global boundaries and proposing “how” the authors could manage change toward sustainability.


Sustainability definitions are reviewed to identify main stakeholders. People value defined as utility is compared to Planet harm as carbon emissions and People harm as prices of products. This approach is examined in business studying the global processes of housing, transporting, providing food and cement manufacturing.


The relative indicators with focus on People utility compare to Planet and People harm seem to be relevant for measuring the level of sustainability. The Crippled Bottom Line of People value/Planet harm and People value/Planet harm is proposed as the “what” to measure and the change process of “understanding-defining-measuring-communicating-leading change” is proposed as the “how” to change.

Research limitations/implications

The research is based on identifying the main stakeholders based on sustainability definitions and from that point mostly on deductive reasoning.

Practical implications

The practical implications are that organizations could define sustainability indicators with objectives that are linked to global limits.

Social implications

Advocating the use of price as a social indicator could have social implications.


The paper contributes to the discussion of how to link global limits to organizational measurements and targets.



Isaksson, R.B., Garvare, R. and Johnson, M. (2015), "The crippled bottom line – measuring and managing sustainability", International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. 64 No. 3, pp. 334-355.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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