Sustainability reporting

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A sustainability report is a report published by a company or organization about the economic, environmental and social impacts caused by its everyday activities. A sustainability report also presents the organization's values and governance model, and demonstrates the link between its strategy and its commitment to a sustainable global economy.[1]


Corporate sustainability reporting has a history going back to environmental reporting. The first environmental reports were published in the late 1980s by companies in the chemical industry which had serious image problems. The other group of early reporters was a group of committed small and medium-sized businesses with very advanced environmental management systems. Additionally, the tobacco industry adopted such reporting much earlier than the rest of the corporate world, in an attempt to attract new investors at a time when ethical investing was becoming increasingly popular.

Non-financial reporting, such as sustainability and CSR reporting, is a fairly recent trend which has expanded over the last twenty years. Many companies now produce an annual sustainability report and a wide array of ratings and standards exist.


Reporting guidelines and frameworks include include the Global Reporting Initiative, Integrated Reporting, the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, and the CDP. The GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines have taken the lead in enabling organizations worldwide to assess their sustainability performance and disclose the results in a similar way to financial reporting.[2] Integrated Reporting may be a new frontier in sustainability reporting.

The largest database of corporate sustainability reports can be found on the website of the United Nations Global Compact initiative.


There are a variety of reasons that companies choose to produce these reports, but at their core they are intended to be "vessels of transparency and accountability". Often they also intended to improve internal processes, engage stakeholders and persuade investors.[3][4]

Companies that communicate strong sustainability performance enjoy a range of benefits, such as stronger, more enduring revenue streams; less employee turnover; and lower regulatory risk. Despite the potential benefits of effective sustainability reporting, however, companies often see this form of reporting as an exercise to meet stakeholder expectations. As a result, firms do not realize many potential benefits. Researchers Jodi York and colleagues argue that reporting should be part of an effort to understand and communicate organizational performance, "rather than the production of a sustainability report as an end in itself."[4]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "About Sustainability Reporting". Global Reporting Initiative. Retrieved December 12, 2018.
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ Rosie Bristow for the Guardian Professional Network. "Online discussion: sustainability reporting | Guardian Sustainable Business". Retrieved 2014-08-27.
  4. ^ a b York, J., Dembek, C., Potter, B., & Gee, W. (2017). "Sustainability Reporting Playbook". Network for Business Sustainability. Retrieved December 12, 2018.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)

Further reading[edit]

  • Schaltegger, S.; Bennett, M. & Burritt, R., eds. (2006). Sustainability Accounting and Reporting. Dordrecht: Springer.
  • York, J., Dembek, C., Potter, B., & Gee, W. 2017. Sustainability Reporting Playbook. Network for Business Sustainability.

External links[edit]

  • 360report Glossary Definitions of terms concerning sustainability reporting
  • GRI Reports List - Global Reporting Initiative Reports List (1999 - current). GRI's mission is to make sustainability reporting standard practice by providing guidance and support to organizations.
  • The International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) A global coalition of regulators, investors, companies, standard setters, the accounting profession and NGOs. The coalition is promoting communication about value creation as the next step in the evolution of corporate reporting.
  • Non-Financial Reporting and CSR Resource Centre is focused on the topic of environmental / sustainability / social reporting and provides fully descriptive links which are in its international section listed in 30 categories.