Performance measurement in urban development: unfolding a case of sustainability KPIs reporting

Loai Ali Zeenalabden Ali Alsaid*, Charles Anyeng Ambilichu

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    6 Citations (SciVal)
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)48-74
    Number of pages27
    JournalJournal of Accounting in Emerging Economies
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 9 Feb 2024


    In Necasep, and the related smart energy project, three different KPIs are designed in relation to their regulatory social sustainability practices. As a senior accountant explained, first the “scale” of the sustainable energy project, which is defined by a number of citizens with direct access to multiple points in the smart grid. Here, the project scale corresponds to the project's ability to invest in expanding and intensifying the sustainable grid. Second, the level of “penetration”, i.e. the ability of the project to penetrate the covered area and “transform” the population, with access to sustainable energy products and services, to become “regular” customers and “stop” from using old (unhealthy) alternative sources. Third, the “regularity” of each customer's consumption. This KPI is required to ensure that customers start using sustainable (healthy) energy products and services regularly. Moreover, in relation to regulatory economic sustainability practices, two different KPIs are also intended. According to a senior accountant: First, the “self-financing rate” is an important KPI as the case company chose to rely on “project sales/revenues” to cover the project financial gap, which shaped a strong “institutional pressure” on management. A board director indicated that despite the financial support from the European Union, the state government made the “partial self-financing” decision after the political revolutions and economic crisis in Egypt that affected the project implementation budget. Since then, the government has decided that each urban city “must fill” the project financing gap through its economic activities and/or private sector partnership. An executive manager explains that the state government has pushed urban development companies (e.g. Necasep) to form “public-private partnerships”, which are part of strategy to finance and implement sustainability projects. Besides, and as also indicated in the secondary documentary readings, Necasep is relying on its economic resources and businesses to bridge the project financing gap. Second, “economic efficiency”. Due to the project's partial self-financing, this efficiency indicator was not sufficient to break even. The city/company management needed a “metric” (KPIs) that allows the various institutional actors (entities involved in the project) to measure and report the contribution margin of each cluster of customers, such as the contribution margin of each sustainable smart grid. According to a project manager: The Necasep sustainable energy project was selected as an interpretive case study. Necasep, which is a “pseudonym” for confidentiality (), is a large public sector company responsible for implementing a sustainable energy project in Egypt. It is one of the first public companies to sign a partnership agreement with the private sector to implement and finance a sustainable energy project (a deputy board director explained). This is in line with New Cairo city council smart electricity project, arguing for the political importance of public-private partnerships in implementing these emerging projects. According to the chairman, Necasep was affected by field urban development goals and (mostly financial) pressures of the sustainable energy project. This was demonstrated in the organisational implementation of a sustainability KPIs-supported performance measurement system, which plays a strong role in shaping political decisions within the company. The fully sustainable energy project was expected to cost about $100m which was financially supported by the Egyptian government and the European Union. Due to political revolutions, subsequent economic turmoil and price increases, the actual total cost was brought to about US$135m. This unexpected increase was pressured Necasep to borrow from its investments and business profits at the macro-field level to self-finance the remaining amount of the project. This self-financing pressure was imposed on the company to become more concerned with economic KPIs (financial activities) than with social KPIs (non-financial activities). The political-military rationale was attempted to fuel social activities financially through the returns and profits of financial activities and economic investments. This was the rationale for choosing Necasep as an urban sustainability case study. As described below, data collection included multiple semi-structured interviews, observations and documentary analysis. Data collection and analysis were processed at three interrelated levels: the macro-institutional field, organisational and micro-organisational.

    FundersFunder number
    Egyptian government
    European Commission


      • Contingency theory
      • Institutional theory
      • Performance measurement
      • Social cognitive theory
      • Sustainability KPIs reporting
      • Urban development


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