Danubius International Conferences, 22nd EMAN Conference. Social Responsibility and Sustainability Accounting-Key Corporate Performance Drivers and Measures

Comparability as performance driver: transparent materiality thresholds presentations in sustainability reporting

Minna Suutari, Tuija Virtanen
Last modified: 2018-05-03


Efforts to increase the possibilities to co-use, integrate and link existing sustainability related data are advanced as research for various new data collection processes. It is essential to tackle the challenges of global sustainability issues where ideas, concepts and research findings need to be continuously developed, tested and improved (e.g. Antonini & Larrinaga 2017; UNCTAD 2017). There is need to align the global macro measurement with national goals and micro indicator frameworks (GRI et al. 2015) for use of open global data ecosystem to support the implementation of e.g. the Sustainable Development Goals.

There have been enhancement for both material information quality and information to be publicly available (cf Boiral et al. 2017; Unerman & Zappettini 2014; Searcy & Buslovich; 2014; Bebbington & Larrinaga 2014). Reporting quality in terms of comparability is important to users who are interested in the environmental performance or wider sustainability performance over time, relative to other organizations or macro level aggregated impacts (e.g. Einwiller et al 2016; GRI Standards 2016). Decision makers or stakeholders can only act in favour of sustainability, if they are informed and if they can compare different investment and operational options (cf. Schaltegger et al. 2017; Fuhrmann et al. 2016; Maas et al. 2016; Edgley et al. 2015). Reporting quality is essential considering internal, external or connecting drivers towards more sustainable decisions (cf Lozano & von Haartman 2017). 

The aim in this content analysis study is to explore how transparently environmental items and related materiality thresholds were reported both by reporters themselves and by the assurors in their assurance reports. The study includes assured according to the Global Reporting Initiative -G4 or GRI Standards reporting food enterprises' reports from the publishing year 2017. The study contributes to the widening perceptions on comparability challenges and complexity of drivers in different contexts.

The aim of the next research phase is to explore the challenges in gathering sustainability related information and quality processes in the case companies. The research includes semi-structured interviews by a research team and builds on the results from the first research phase.