Sustainability Assessment and Reporting for Nonprofit Organizations: Accountability “for the Public Good”
VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 2014, Volume 25, Issue 6, 1465-1482.
© 2013 International Society for Third-Sector Research and The Johns Hopkins University
Linked version is the final published version
Nonprofit organizations serve the public good by offering services that benefit communities and the individuals who live in them. While many large for-profit companies and a few international nonprofits have begun voluntarily assessing and reporting their environmental, cultural, economic, and social sustainability performance in response to growing public awareness of sustainability issues, nonprofit organizations have generally been slow to adopt the practice. This paper makes the case that nonprofits have an obligation to assess and report sustainability performance to account for their positive and negative environmental, cultural, economic, and social impacts in the communities they serve precisely because of their promise to serve the public good; and that sustainability assessment and reporting are not only possible, but that they can actually offer several practical advantages for organizations that integrate the practice into their missions and models. Several sustainability reporting frameworks are reviewed. Two case examples are presented to illustrate the utility of sustainability assessments and reports for different types and sizes of nonprofit organizations. Challenges to the process of adoption and implementation of sustainability programs in the nonprofit sector are discussed.