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The GLOBAL VALUE project has been one of the biggest research projects on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) ever funded by the European Commission. Its purpose was to enable multinational corporations to measure their impacts on global sustainable development, as Project Manager, Norma Schönherr explained

Tools for multinationals to measure their impacts on Global Sustainable Development “From the outset, the overarching objective of the GLOBAL VALUE project was to create knowledge, tools and resources that multinational corporations can use to comprehensively assess and better manage their impacts on global sustainable development,” began Norma Schönherr. The impacts of big business on people and the planet had been in the limelight for years. Trust in multinationals to discharge their corporate responsibility and drive positive social change was at a low-point. New ways needed to be found to turn this around and ensure that people were satisfied these companies were accountable and aware of their impacts. In 2015, 150 world leaders agreed to adopt 17 clearly identified Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), created by the United Nations – ambitious aims such as ending poverty and extreme hunger, as well as providing clean water, gender equality, education, decent work & economic growth. For these aims to be in any way realistic, it was clear that it would require businesses, especially multinationals, to take a leading role in achieving these desired outcomes. Two years prior to this declaration, the GLOBAL VALUE project had already been kicked-off and was developing resources that would ultimately play a key part in finding ways to track multinational corporations’ impacts on societies and environments across the globe. The project responded to a call in FP7 that asked for the generation of practicable knowledge on measuring the impacts of multinational corporations on global sustainable development, grounded in solid research. The call and subsequently the GLOBAL VALUE project came about around the same time when the European Commission revised its definition of CSR as ‘the responsibility of enterprises for their impact on society’. “GLOBAL VALUE was an important interface in changing the discourse from focusing on 30

Field research in Tanzania - GLOBAL VALUE was a collaboration between partners from Europe, Africa and Asia.

CSR activities towards consideration of how business impacts sustainable development globally,” said Norma Schönherr. GLOBAL VALUE had three clear aims – improving the knowledge around enhancing positive impacts, raising awareness around how multinationals affect surrounding socio-ecological systems and developing resources to measure and manage impacts on sustainable development, in the context of the SDGs. “GLOBAL VALUE made significant strides in both, academia and business practice, towards a better understanding of business responsibility and subsequently better management of business impacts and contributions to the SDGs,” added Schönherr.

The right tools Companies have been faced with increasingly complex demands from stakeholders on one side, and ever more offers of instruments for addressing these demands. CSR standards and tools have proliferated, with new ones regularly hitting the market, having been developed by businesses, business associations, public and non-governmental organisations, as well as multi-stakeholder

initiatives. In this plethora, finding the right tools that enable corporations to measure, manage and improve their contributions to sustainable development was a challenge, even to most experienced professionals. “It is true that there is no one-size-fitsall approach here, and we do not provide a ready-made ‘how-to’ blueprint for managing impacts on sustainable development. However, what the GLOBAL VALUE toolkit does is support managers in identifying and answering the critical questions that better enables them to deal with this complexity of demands and available tools,” said Schönherr. As a result, the project developed practical resources for businesses to access and use. These resources included the GLOBAL VALUE tool navigator, a unique and free database that helps filter through hundreds of measurement tools to navigate to the most relevant ones for a business, in just three steps. The navigator can be accessed here: Each tool in the database has been analysed in terms of which SDGs it helps address, how much of the value chain it covers, what results it provides and many more features. There are practical showcases of 15 of the most widely used tools that have been practically tested in cooperation with three multinational corporations in three different geographical contexts and industry sectors. In addition, businesses can find thematic guides to measuring and managing impacts as well as sector profiles. Since its launch in June 2017, the GLOBAL VALUE toolkit has attracted more than 8,500 visitors, around 750 of which have become registered toolkit users. A vast pool of experience was necessary to provide the knowledge needed and to make it possible to develop the tools accurately. The project created an ‘expert crowd’, a crowd intelligence platform of 262 stakeholders from 60 countries to draw expertise from. Those crowd members were involved in various activities during the process of

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developing the GLOBAL VALUE toolkit – from supporting the collaborative stocktaking of existing tools and approaches in the very beginning of the project, to discussions on what defines good impact assessment tools, to testing the GLOBAL VALUE tool navigator at the end of the project. In addition to the online toolkit, the project has also produced training and teaching resources to further support managers. For example, thematic webinars and workshops were developed to help with specific questions when measuring and managing impact. GLOBAL VALUE has also worked with organisations wanting to improve their business impact assessment. For instance, project members have taken a consultative role with the Austrian Development Agency, the advisory board of the Natural Capital Protocol toolkit and co-hosted events with stakeholders, such as the Austrian Initiative for Business and Global Development, CorporAID. “We also received quite a bit of interest from consultancies and tool developers, business associations, development agencies that engage in business partnerships or public authorities that partner with business in public-private-partnerships (PPPs),” elaborated Schönherr. “I personally find that very encouraging because, essentially, no company can advance the sustainable development agenda or impact measurement practice alone. If we are to move beyond check-box exercises towards meaningful engagement with the SDGs, different actors will need to collaborate and talk to each other. We are very glad to contribute to this movement with the knowledge and insights we have built up in the past 4 years.”

business performance need not be antithetic and can even be mutually supportive. “Many companies see sustainability and corporate responsibility as reputational or brand value issues. However, the benefits for societies and environments, which in turn come back as benefits to the business, go beyond that. In the end, it comes down to two major drivers that will continue to incentivise more businesses to engage with sustainable development: the necessity to maintain trust in business as an institution and ensuring the long-term viability of companies in an increasingly uncertain environment.” Many business leaders support this view. The SDGs provide an array of new business opportunities and become an important driver of innovation. This perception is echoed by a recent report by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, a high-level forum of business leaders from multi-nationals, as well as from other private sector and civil society organisations. The business case for engaging with the SDGs is strong and rewards are estimated to amount to at least US$12 trillion in new business opportunities. Schönherr concluded: “This also requires shifts in corporate cultures and the development of new skills among managers who increasingly will not only be held responsible for market shares and shareholder profits, but for the effects their companies have on communities and the environment in the future. They will have to have the skills to notice and fully grasp the opportunities sustainable development may present their business.”

What’s in it for them?

The GLOBAL VALUE project officially ended on 30 June 2017. However, its participants are committed to maintaining and growing the toolkit over the coming years. They have recently joined a new partnership that specifically deals with advancing environmental and natural capital impact assessment in business. This is one of the arenas where it is hoped those involved will continue to advance the discussion on enabling business to measure and manage their impacts on SDGs.

Big businesses were often perceived to not prioritise their far-reaching effects on people and the environment but Schönherr argues that sustainability improvements are increasingly being recognised among business managers as drivers for profit and growth. “I believe that it is a myth that engaging with corporate responsibility must necessarily come at the expense of business success. We have a lot of authoritative research that suggests, quite to the contrary, that CSR and

The ongoing objective

GLOBAL VALUE Assessing the Impacts of Multinational Corporations on GLOBAL Development and VALUE Creation Project Objectives

The GLOBAL VALUE project had a budget of 3 million Euros, with the overarching focus of helping multinational corporations assess, measure and manager the impact they have on sustainable development.

Project Funding

CP-FP-SICA - Small/medium-scale focused research project for specific cooperation actions dedicated to international cooperation partner countries(SICA)

Project Partners

The project is implemented by the Institute for Managing Sustainability, together with 11 leading research institutions, civil society organisations and companies from Europe, Asia and Africa. •

Contact Details

André Martinuzzi, Norma Schönherr, & Adele Wiman Institute for Managing Sustainability Vienna University of Economics & Business Vienna, Austria T: +43-1-31336-4698 E: W:

André Martinuzzi (a.Prof, Dr.) Norma Schönherr (Msc)

Dr André Martinuzzi is Head of the Institute for Managing Sustainability and associate professor at the Vienna University of Economics and Business. He has more than 20 years of experience in coordinating and leading EU-wide research projects for the European Commission, as well as for international organizations and ministries. He is an expert in the fields of evaluation research, CSR, sustainable development, and knowledge brokerage. Norma Schönherr (Msc) is a research fellow and project manager at the Institute for Managing Sustainability at WU Vienna. Before joining the institute, she held positions in an international environmental NGO, a development agency, and a free research institute. She’s an expert in impact measurement and management. Her main areas of expertise are corporate social responsibility, international sustainability governance and corporate impacts on global sustainable development.


Global Value  

The GLOBAL VALUE purpose is to enable multinational corporations to measure their impacts on global sustainable development, as Project Mana...

Global Value  

The GLOBAL VALUE purpose is to enable multinational corporations to measure their impacts on global sustainable development, as Project Mana...