- More than words? : an analysis of sustainability reports
- New Academy Review
- Pages (from-to)
- Issue number
- Document type
- Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB)
- Amsterdam Business School Research Institute (ABS-RI)
In the past decade, attention to environmental (and most recently, sustainability) reporting has increased, as has the number of companies that publish such reports. This growth has raised questions about the persistence and significance of this largely voluntary corporate activity, especially when placed against the background of a previous, short-lived wave of social reporting and accounting in the 1970s, and discussions about the reliability of disclosure and auditing. This paper addresses the question of what can be ascertained from sustainability reports about actual implementation of sustainability in reporting companies. It introduces the concept of 'implementation likelihood', developing an analytical framework to shed more light on the probability that rhetoric is matched by action. Results are presented of an exploratory characterisation of the sustainability reports published by the Global Fortune 250. The implementation likelihood was seen to have advanced more for environmental than for social issues. Whereas companies provide more details on the more traditional social topics (community and employee matters), the external, often international issues are not comprehensively covered within the reports, except by a few companies. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications for the institutionalisation of sustainability reporting and auditing, and corporate accountability towards stakeholders.
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