Original Research

Relationship between sustainable development initiatives and improved company financial performance: A South African perspective

Darelle Groenewald, Jonathan Powell
Acta Commercii | Vol 16, No 1 | a298 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ac.v16i1.298 | © 2016 Darelle Groenewald, Jonathan Powell | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 December 2014 | Published: 31 May 2016

About the author(s)

Darelle Groenewald, Department of Business Management, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Jonathan Powell, Planning Manager, Torre Industries, South Africa


Orientation: Companies are under ever-increasing pressure from both internal and external stakeholders to consider the environmental and social impacts of their operations and to mitigate these impacts. This necessitates an investigation into the effect of sustainability initiatives on the financial performance (FP) of a company.

Research purpose: The study analysed the relationship between sustainability performance and FP in South African listed companies.

Motivation for the study: Some South African listed companies acknowledge in their sustainability reports that there is a link between sustainability development and long-term shareholder value. This implies that FP is linked to sustainable development performance. This relationship has not been researched for South African listed companies and therefore needs to be investigated.

Research design, approach and method: A similar research method was used as for an international study. Forty-five listed South African companies were selected as the sample. Their sustainable development reports were used for analysis. Data were analysed with the use of content and a canonical correlation analysis.

Main findings: The results of the study revealed that an overall positive relationship exists between sustainability performance and FP. Practical implications: South African companies that have a high involvement and focus on specific sustainable development initiatives that are integrated into overall sustainable development strategy can deliver improved FP for the organisation and deliver long-term value to its shareholders.

Contribution: Six sustainable development aspects were found to be significantly correlated with improved FP and if incorporated into a company’s sustainable development strategy can lead to increased successes.


Canonical correlation analysis; Sustainability reporting; Sustainability development; Financial performance; South African listed companies


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