Factors Preventing U.S. Adoption of Triple-Bottom-Line Sustainability Frameworks and Performance Indicators in Museum Strategic Planning
CitationGroom, Jocelyn. 2018. Factors Preventing U.S. Adoption of Triple-Bottom-Line Sustainability Frameworks and Performance Indicators in Museum Strategic Planning. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractThis thesis investigates the potential factors preventing the adoption of triple-bottom-line (TBL) strategies and indicators in U.S. museums. The international museum community generally supports TBL as an important management tool and necessary link to meeting United Nations Sustainable Development Goals but U.S. museums have not adopted these strategies. Previous research has examined what makes museums sustainable or proposed indicators to measure performance, but none have examined the drivers behind the lack of adoption of these indicators.
Findings in this study indicate that the lack of adoption is related to structural issues. Universities, which are similar to museums, have successfully adopted TBL reporting practices based on the existence of a framework developed through extensive testing, piloting, and stakeholder engagement. However, U.S. museums lack either voluntary or regulatory TBL frameworks. In the rare cases of adoption of TBL strategy in U.S. museums, it is due to the influence of the organizational leader. Executive boards served to support, and not drive, adoption. The influence of funding sources, whether public or private, is still undetermined due to the relatively small amount of cases in this study. Private funding did appear to have a strong positive influence in one case, which may or may not be representative. Mission may also be a soft influence, where organizations that can tie notions of sustainability more directly to their mission, such as natural history museums and gardens, are practicing TBL strategy. Organizational capacity, or size, may also be a factor in utilizing TBL performance measurement on strategy, but in the absence of a sector-wide framework, compared to universities which do have such a framework, definitive conclusions are not possible. Museums in the United States are challenged financially because their business model, although evolved from its original model, is highly constrained. Museums in the U.S. operate within a larger historic context in which the country’s nonprofits became part of a “welfare state” from which they have yet to emerge.
I propose a feasible, but challenging, TBL framework that is appropriate for U.S. museums and based on the existing STARS framework for universities and Sustainability Index for public gardens, rather than the GRI4 framework which is directly related to Sustainable Development Goals. The proposed museum framework should include best-practice indicators from GRI4 and also science-based targets for environmental and greenhouse-gas emissions goals. However, the museum sector would ultimately need to develop such a framework, including all relevant indicators.
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