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The business responsibility matrix: a diagnostic tool to aid the design of better interventions for achieving the SDGs

Noemi Sinkovics (Business School, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)
Rudolf R. Sinkovics (Business School, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand and LUT University, Kouvola, Finland)
Jason Archie-Acheampong (Rush Group Limited, London, UK)

Multinational Business Review

ISSN: 1525-383X

Article publication date: 6 December 2020

Issue publication date: 7 January 2021




This paper aims to propose an integrative framework that enables the mapping of firm activities along two dimensions of responsible business behavior: a width and a depth dimension. Width includes associative, peripheral, operational and embedded responsibility. In terms of depth, we identify delinquent, neutral, nascent, enhanced and advanced levels of responsibility.


The responsibility matrix is developed by drawing on the literature and the ambition to provide a more nuanced map of a firm’s activities and its contributions toward the sustainable development goals (SDGs).


The matrix enables the classification of firm activities into different functional categories based on how they relate to a firm’s business model. Further, the meaningfulness of each activity can be identified by determining its depth.

Research limitations/implications

Mapping all the relevant activities of a multinational firm onto the responsibility matrix enables managers and policymakers to identify areas where transformation is most needed. Further, multinational firms can use the matrix to map the activities of their value chain partners and design more effective standards and interventions.

Practical implications

The business responsibility matrix represents a diagnostic tool that enables the detailed mapping of firm capabilities and the identification of areas where further capacity building is necessary and where pockets of excellence exist.

Social implications

The responsibility matrix offers a benchmarking tool for progress that can be used in conjunction with existing guidelines and initiatives such as the United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the UN Global Compact and the Global Reporting Initiative.


The responsibility matrix acknowledges that firms can engage with the SDGs through different types of activity (width dimension). Simultaneously, it recognizes that activities in the same category can have varying levels of effectiveness (depth dimension).



The authors gratefully acknowledge comments received from Rob van Tulder (Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University), Heinz Tüselmann (Manchester Metropolitan University and UNCTAD) and participants at the AIB 2019 annual conference in Copenhagen. Financial support was received from the University of Manchester 2014 ESRC Impact Acceleration Account [ES/M500392/1] and the Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS) Lord Alliance strategic research investment fund [LA-SRIF AA14179].

Conflicts of interest: No conflicts of interests.


Sinkovics, N., Sinkovics, R.R. and Archie-Acheampong, J. (2021), "The business responsibility matrix: a diagnostic tool to aid the design of better interventions for achieving the SDGs", Multinational Business Review, Vol. 29 No. 1, pp. 1-20.



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Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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