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Knowledge-based strategies and sustainability: a framework and a case study application

Gianpaolo Iazzolino (Department of Mechanical, Energy and Management Engineering University of Calabria Rende, Italy)
Domenico Laise (Department of Computer, Control and Management Engineering, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy)
Rossella Gabriele (Department of Mechanical, Energy and Management Engineering University of Calabria Rende, Italy)

Measuring Business Excellence

ISSN: 1368-3047

Publication date: 15 May 2017

Abstract

Purpose

The aim of the paper is to provide some guidelines for using and not using knowledge-based strategies (KS) and for understanding the sustainability of such kinds of strategy. The paper proposes an accounting-based framework that can be used for this aim. The meaning of the guidelines is illustrated with reference to a specific case of a company that implements a KS: the Italian Loccioni Group. The work continues and develops a research already started by the same authors (Iazzolino and Laise, 2013, 2016; Iazzolino et al., 2014).

Design/methodology/approach

Building on previous works by the same authors (Iazzolino and Laise, 2013, 2016; Iazzolino et al., 2014), the proposed framework starts from the analysis of the value added (VA) created by the firm. To characterize a KS, the VA and its components are analyzed. To evaluate the sustainability of a strategy (from the economic and social point of view), the time trend of the VA and its composition are also analyzed. The research is theoretical and empirical: a case study has been carried out to apply the framework. Specific key performance indicators were identified to describe the context analyzed.

Findings

From a theoretical point of view, an inter-theory relationship (not existing in the literature) between P. Drucker’s approach of economic/social sustainable strategies (ESS) based on knowledge and Pulic’s theory of human capital efficiency (HCE) has been constructed. From results of application of the framework on the case study, it emerges that the Loccioni Group implements a KS. It can be considered a “win-win” strategy.

Research limitations/implications

The case study (Loccioni Group) is described to highlight that an ESS is achievable. The case study has to be understood as the description of a best practice (a benchmark) and not as a statistical test of hypothesis (a theory test). The description of the case is useful to show that companies which adopt KS are not a utopia. There are concrete examples that show that it is possible to implement such strategies. In other words, the set of companies that adopt a ESS is not “empty”.

Practical implications

Managers underestimate the importance of a performance measurement that takes into account advantages in terms of intangibles. The approach analyzed in this paper makes it possible to highlight the effects of sustainable strategies based on knowledge investments oriented toward the stakeholder value theory and corporate social responsibility.

Originality/value

The main purpose of this paper is the construction of an inter-theory relationship (not existing in the literature) between P. Drucker’s approach of ESS based on knowledge and Pulic’s theory of HCE. The existence of such a relation, in the authors’ opinion, is necessary to provide a theoretical foundation of an accounting framework useful for evaluating KS and that a KS (in Drucker’s sense) is adopted when it creates value for all the stakeholders. That is, it is adopted when it has a high VA (in Pulic’s sense).

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the referee for his precious suggestions that contributed to enhancing the paper significantly.

Citation

Iazzolino, G., Laise, D. and Gabriele, R. (2017), "Knowledge-based strategies and sustainability: a framework and a case study application", Measuring Business Excellence, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 152-174. https://doi.org/10.1108/MBE-11-2015-0050

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited