Through the looking glass: tying performance and materiality to corporate purpose

by J.C. Stroehle, K. Soonawalla and M. Metzner

26 Aug 2022
Journal of the British Academy
Digital Object Identifier
Number of pages
38 (pp. 87-123)

Abstract: By making use of the purpose definition set out by the British Academy’s Future of the Corporation programme we argue that performance relates to purpose in two dimensions. Firstly, purpose sets the frame of long-term success and defines materiality for an organisation both from a single and from a double materiality perspective. Secondly, performance in relation to purpose needs to measure profitability net of negative externalities. We review and discuss the current landscape of non-financial reporting and measurement frameworks on how they lend themselves to the determination of materiality on the one hand and to the accounting of externalities on the other hand, in order to achieve an approximation of performance in relation to purpose. We conclude by discussing how materiality and measurement viewed through a purpose-lens could help an advanced understanding of performance in practice for sustainable finance, corporate governance and management decision-making.

Keywords: Non-financial measurement and performance, materiality, corporate purpose, sustainability accounting.

Article posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 10, supplementary issue 5 (Foundations of the Future of the Corporation programme report ‘Policy & Practice for Purposeful Business’).

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