Doctoral thesis

Sustainability indicators of corporate communications : translated into public procurement and the implications of their digitalization


Thèse de doctorat: Università della Svizzera italiana, 2020 (jury note: Summa cum laude)

English Sustainability Indicators (SIs) are rising. They reach importance in all communications and decisions towards sustainability (Baue, 2019; Hák et al., 2016; Lyytimäki, 2019; UN DESA, 2019; UNRISD, 2019), especially in corporate communications and corporate reporting (GRI, 2019; Knebel & Seele, 2015). With the revised General Procurement Agreement (GPA) from the World Trade Organization (WTO) also Public Procurement starts to rely on SIs in order to fulfill upcoming legal requirements (Arrowsmith & Anderson, 2011b; European Union, 2014; WTO, 2015). The rise of SIs coincides with a digital revolution (Greengard, 2015; Helbing, 2015b) potentially also revolutionizing SIs, in their consistence, the way they support decision making, as well as their potential in measuring and communicating sustainability performance in corporate communications. The thesis follows two research streams, whereby one stream delves into the realms of SIs and sustainable public procurement (SPP) and the other into the realms of SIs and Digitalization. The first stream looks into possibilities to translate and operationalize SIs in SPP considering previously identified issues to implement sustainability in public procurement. The second stream looks into SIs, their digitalization and its impact on corporate communications. The findings and results encompass the development of a flexible and a framing approach for public procurements’ way towards sustainability. Thus, the findings include an analysis of status quo in SPP and called for definitions for SPP’s common understanding. Hereby, the conceptualization and development of a “SIs selector” based on a SIs typology allows professionals to select and construct SIs for each individual procured good and service. A framing approach complements these results by providing a small SIs set tailored to SPP requirements which aims to reduce complexity to provide common ground in a field that craves for harmony and a common understanding of SPP. Findings from the second stream encompass the conceptualization of a digital corporate nervous net, which enables the further conceptualization of preporting. The conceptualization of a corporate nervous net reveals ways for corporate communications to adopt to the digital revolution. Preporting builds on such a corporate nervous net and conceptualizes how digitalized and AI augmented SIs complement existing reporting practices in corporate communications. While SIs rather represent constructive communication aiming to order potential disorder by reducing complexities, the thesis introduces in the end destructive communication in form of cyberattacks as opposing force. Interestingly, the findings reveal not only how SIs destruct organization if used unproperly or when they oversimplify, but also how destructive communication constitutes organization in the sense of CCO without being contradictorily. Thus, the thesis outlines this duality of communication along SIs and cyberattacks in its interplay and their switching roles between construction and destruction in changing organization. Hence, the thesis in its six plus one chapters provides theoretical advancements and practical implications into the digitalization of corporate communications along SIs and cyberattacks and the opportunities to overcome inertia in SPP implementation using SIs.
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