How to Incorporate Long-Term Impacts into Today’s Decisions

How can firms advance sustainable business by incorporating long-term impacts into today’s decisions?

How can firms advance sustainable business by incorporating long-term impacts into today’s decisions? In some ways this question is the holy grail of sustainable business, highlighting the tension between numerous financial, competitive, cultural and other drivers that focus managerial attention on short-term results, against the firm’s long-term prosperity served by meeting the needs of society and the natural environment.

Abundant academic research, some of it focused specifically on sustainability topics, has gone into how firms make decisions for the long term. NBS recently launched an ambitious project to compile, analyze and summarize the best relevant research and provide frameworks for business decision makers to implement that knowledge. Several sub-questions have been defined to frame the effort:

  • What are the contributors to, and consequences of, short-term decision-making in organizations?

  • When are the consequences of short-term decision-making at odds with sustainability?

  • What are the decision-making processes that incorporate both the short-term and long-term?

Results of this “systematic review” will be published in the fall of 2014, initially as research report and executive summary companion pieces, with targeted communications to follow over time.

NBS’s lead investigator for this project is Dr. David Souder, of the University of Connecticut School of Business. Dr. Souder is an expert on how firms balance conflicting priorities for achieving short-term results against making the long-term investments necessary to develop for the future. He and his team are currently reviewing research identified through keyword searches of academic and other databases, and will begin to assess and synthesize the best-quality work starting in April.


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