The Observatory

The Global Observatory on the Evolution of the Sustainable Enterprise (“the Observatory”) is a data-base that describes the history of sustainability of companies around the world and across industries. Although it includes company-wide data, its distinctive focus is on initiatives that a company sees as both important for sustainability and its business strategy. In comparison to company-wide analyses and indicators, this approach allows for a much more flexible and evolutionary sense of what a “company” is becoming and its pathway to sustainable enterprise. As well, the Observatory provides a baseline assessment of the relative effectiveness of past sustainability-driven initiatives. This data provides the basis for developing GOLDEN’s experimental work on organizational level with firm-level change initiatives (see Organizational Level).

The Observatory team 3_15_Fotor

Assessors Team at Bocconi


The analysis of sustainability reporting aims at getting a general understanding of the nature of a company’s involvement in sustainability. In order to do so the Observatory aims at creating a global data base in several industries, such as:  finance services, food retail, natural resources, energy, ITC, pharmaceutical, apparel.

The data collection of the Observatory is based on a standardized protocol with regard to the analysis of public archival data, namely sustainability or annual reports.



  • Basics on strategic (sustainability) issues identified by the firms
  • In depth analysis of the change initiatives
  • Sustainability performance (economic, environmental, social)
  • General company profile
  • M&A and alliance activities

This data can, in turn, be matched with several other databases (Asset 4, SDC, KLD, Compustat).


How the analysis and the coding work

observatory-processThe aim of Protocol used in the Observatory (latest version attached) is to conduct analysis to identify and codify sustainability initiatives of firms and to describe how these actions may affect environment, society and the firms.

The unit of analysis of coding is the sustainability initiative, which is defined as a practical activity or set of related activities that the firm is performing in order to tackle a specific societal issue.

For each initiative the analysis plans to respond to the following questions:

  • What does the firm actually do in this initiative?
  • Why is the firm doing it?
  • How is the firm performing it?
  • Where is the firm doing it?

coding-variablesThis provides for a solid baseline assessment of the current sustainability status of a company. Moreover, it provides for analysis of possible futures from the perspective of employees and key stakeholders. In addition, the analytical focus on strategic sustainability initiatives.

Additionally GOLDEN collects data on companies’ pathway towards sustainability from various internal perspectives:

(1) organizational;
(2) functional lines;
(3) individual views, and
(4) strategic sustainability initiatives.

This is accompanied by data on the specific company context (industry/region). The Observatory data-base is distinguished by its comprehensive sources, and includes:

  • Public archival data
  • Private archival data
  • Fact-finding interview and document data, primarily in the different business functions
  • Interviews at stakeholder and executive level
  • Survey at management and employee level
  • Experiments carried out by GOLDEN labs

The Observatory Counter

So far analyzed by August 2018:

Sustainability initiatives analyzed and assessed: more than 85,000

Outputs of the Observatory

The Observatory data can be used to highlight international, regional or industry trends in sustainability initiatives. On organizational level it can provide the basis for impact assessment of change initiatives, benchmarking of a company’s initiatives, and for the maturity assessment of sustainability integration.