Rick Edgeman

The Sustainable Leadership Simulator (SLS): An innovative governance mechanism powering systematic validation and development of next best practice

Research output: Working paperResearch


  • 2013-01

    Submitted manuscript, 411 KB, PDF document

This conceptualization of the UN PRME-endorsed (Haertle, 2013) Sustainable Leadership Simulator (SLS) will at a minimum level of operationalization be an impactful online training simulator leveraging more sustainable behavior by individuals and organizations. Fully operationalized the SLS has the potential to be an innovative governance mechanism powering systematic validation and development of next Best Practice.
When addressing the key challenges to 2030/2050 in sustainable development, Leisinger and Bakker (2013) identify the sharing of best practices and elevation of these to the standard of operation, as mechanisms for fast scaling up of business solutions. The notion of 'Best Practice' is frequently used by authoritative sources to showcase sustainability practices by corporations, communities, countries etc. Though, the idea that certain Practices are the Best and universally applicable is generally highly contested, especially with regard to sustainable development, which mean “different things to different people in different contexts” (Bebbington, 2001). Hence, benchmarking of sustainable development in e.g. the corporate sphere remains a major legitimacy challenge (Bruno & Karliner, 2000; Utting & Sammit, 2006) for standard setting institutions like the UN Global Compact (UNGC). The 2010 introduction of an UNGC Advanced Level of reporting could be a legitimacy-generating act comparable to the initial institutionalization of the GRI through an analogy to financial reporting (Etzion & Ferraro, 2010). The UNGC Advanced Level has a more explicit management orientation than the GRI and integrates Best Practices in a framework for assessment of Sustainability Performance, in a manner analogous to quality management frameworks such as the EFQM Business Excellence Model that supports the European Quality Award and the model and criteria of America’s Baldrige National Quality Award (BNQA). Though research suggests that the current implementation of the Advanced Level threatens rather than imparts legitimacy (Kjaergaard, 2013a) with the absence of individual weighting of Best Practices and the lack of process transparency among the most critical shortcomings.
Future application of the Sustainable Leadership Simulator (SLS) offers potential for addressing these shortcomings by continuously validating the organizational impact of Best Practices and, conversely, generate data that allows for their continues improvement and the development of Next Best Practices. In the perspective of innovating sustainability presented by Edgeman et al. (2014) using the levels of innovation defined by Scrase et al. (2009) the SLS can be described as: a disruptive innovation capable of leveraging incremental innovation at an exponential pace potentially to deliver radical innovation in e.g. business eco systems. Thereby the SLS can also be viewed as playing the pivotal role of innovation in the Sustainable Enterprise Excellence (SEE) model and accompanying maturity assessment regimen introduced by Edgeman and Eskildsen (2013). They also assign a pivotal role to organizational design, which traditionally has had a preference for simulation studies using techniques relying on static data (Burton & Obel, 2011). The novelty of the SLS is that it enables 'live' simulation based on dynamic data continuously gathered through ongoing global application of the SLS, thus leveraging a capacity for forecasting. Though, following Edgeman et al.'s (2012) initial thoughts on the SEE, the SLS should be Feasible, Operationally Viable, and Capable of Rapid Learning and Adaptation (Ackoff, 1981). Hence, the development of the SLS will initially focus on Best Practices related to Value Chain Implementation, which have been the topic for multiple UNGC initiatives. A perspective on the operationalization of the within the UNGC framework is presented and the UNGC is suggested to further develop the framework, e.g. through a more systematic utilization of the resouces held in their supportive academic community, constituted mainly by university signatories to the UN PRME.
Original languageEnglish
Place of publicationAarhus
PublisherAarhus University, Business and Social Sciences, Interdisciplinary Center for Organizational Architecture
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 2013
SeriesICOA Working Papers Series

    Research areas

  • Best Practice, UN Global Compact, Legitimacy, Simulation, Innovating Sustainability, Sustainable Enterprise Excellence, Value Chain Implementation

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