Issues in Sustainability Accounting Reporting

Elena Munoz, Lijuan Zhao, David C. Yang


In the U.S., sustainability accounting reporting is developing and becoming more prevalent in public companies. This paper reviews accounting literature and Dow 30 companies’ websites, presents a comprehensive view of the landscape of sustainability accounting reporting, and identifies seven issues of the reporting frameworks of sustainability accounting, i.e., (1) definitions, (2) measurements and disclosures, (3) motivations, (4) compliance, (5) enforcement, (6) standardization, and (7) the ultimate effect on reliability and comparability.

An archival analysis approach is used to summarize and compare Dow 30 sustainability accounting reporting frameworks and information disclosed in 2015 annual reports and websites. The most popular framework is the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines. Some companies developed sustainability accounting reporting frameworks and others did not disclose any information regarding sustainability accounting reporting. Although the GRI framework is the most used, external assurance is present in only a few companies.

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