Corporate Perspectives on the Development and Use of Sustainability Reports

Journal of Business Ethics 121 (2):149-169 (2014)
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Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to explore corporate perspectives on the development and use of sustainability reports. Interviews with experts from 35 Canadian corporations were conducted. The research showed that the content of the reports was determined by following standards, conducting an internal evaluation, and other methods. Five corporations were found to develop fully integrated reports, while another 15 included some sustainability aspects in their annual reports. The extent of external stakeholder involvement in the development of the report varied widely, but the majority of the corporations considered stakeholder input. Data collection was handled by a number of different individuals and groups, with sustainability departments often taking a lead role. Twenty-five corporations relied exclusively on internal personnel to write the report, with the remaining corporations using a combination of internal and external writers. A number of key challenges in developing sustainability reports were identified, including timelines, data collection, selecting content, and striking an appropriate balance in reporting. The reports were used internally in a number of different ways, including enhancing employee awareness and engagement and as an internal reference tool. A number of potential future uses of sustainability reports were also mentioned, such as improving the ability to track real-time performance.

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