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Sustainability reporting and the related challenges of the United Nations Global Compact signatories: A qualitative study in the Nordic region
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå School of Business and Economics (USBE), Business Administration.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå School of Business and Economics (USBE), Business Administration.
2018 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Abstract

Sustainability has been one of the most discussed topics among the business world and society for the last decade. The globally growing concern about sustainability related issues has led to businesses and non-businesses meet the demand of their stakeholders by producing a sustainability report to demonstrate their work and development in sustainability and how they have measured it. There has been a fast-growing trend of sustainability reporting in few years and there are a number of different initiatives and requirements that define what kind of sustainability reports are produced. From the different sustainability initiatives, the largest principle-based initiative is the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) with almost 13 000 signatories and the largest reporting-based initiative is the Global reporting initiative (GRI). These two initiatives entered in to a partnership in 2010 with the aim of the GRI providing guidance for the signatories on how to disclose information from different areas in sustainability in their sustainability reports. There has been previous research that criticized the UNGC to be too broad and the principles difficult to translate in to sustainability reporting despite the existing partnership with the GRI. These previous studies expressed the lack of qualitative studies about the subject especially from the signatories’ perspective and the importance of approaching the topic from a practical point of view. The purpose of our research study was to create an understanding of the practicalities in UNGC signatories’ sustainability reporting, the challenges they face in the progress and how are they approaching those challenges. The thesis focuses on the Nordic region and the two research questions are:

 

How are the UNGC signatories practically translating the 10 principles into their sustainability reporting? What challenges do UNGC signatories find in sustainability reporting in general and how have they approached these challenges?

 

To answer these research questions the authors conducted a qualitative study by semi-structured interviews with company representatives from different Nordic UNGC signatories. The research study identified how do they practically identify what to report about the principles which is determined by materiality assessment provided by the GRI framework. This determines what is material for the company and its industry and focus on those areas in their sustainability report. Legal requirements, internal regulations and other commitments were also identified guiding sustainability reporting. The main challenges related to the sustainability reporting were mainly about data related issues, satisfying the stakeholders and the high number of different frameworks and regulations that are not necessarily interrelated. Majority of the participants approached these challenges by carrying out the materiality assessment as accurate and clear as possible in order to avoid data related difficulties. Some participants offer their different stakeholders with sustainability related information by different forms in order to make the sustainability reporting easier to read and understand. For the high number of frameworks and regulations, the participants have expectations for alignment among them in the future in order to make the reporting easier for everyone involved with sustainability reporting. The results of our findings were supported by theories and concepts such as the stakeholder’s theory, signalling theory and the CSR concept. Previous studies about sustainability reporting and UNGC were also compared to our findings in the analysis.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. , p. 113
Keywords [en]
Sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility, GRI, UNGC, SDGs, Sustainability reporting, Nordic region, Challenges, Non-Financial disclosure, Sustainability accounting, Materiality assessment
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-149361OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-149361DiVA, id: diva2:1221357
External cooperation
Anonymous
Educational program
Master's Programme in Accounting
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2018-06-20 Created: 2018-06-20 Last updated: 2018-06-25Bibliographically approved

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