نقش شاخص های یکپارچه در نمایشگاه مشارکت کسب و کار به توسعه پایدار: یک بررسی از طرح های گزارش دهی توسعه پایدار
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|29410||2011||28 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||9701 کلمه|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Revista de Contabilidad, Volume 14, Supplement 1, August–December 2011, Pages 213–240
This paper aims to analyse the role of integrated indicators included in sustainability reporting initiatives in exhibiting business contribution to Sustainable Development. Content analysis of five core initiatives has been carried out to identify strong or weak sustainability arguments within the whole set of indicators. According to the findings, the analyzed initiatives raise a collection of integrated indicators that suggest managerial capture of the concept of Sustainable Development.
Recent years have seen ongoing growth in the number of sustainability reports produced by businesses (CorporateRegister.com, 2010; Kolk, 2010; KPMG, 2008), and in the academic literature dedicated to constructing theories to determine the explanatory factors (Gray, 2002). It is, however, insisted that the published reports are not genuine sustainability reports (Gray, 2006) and that there is a lack of normative research on what this type of reporting should be (Gray, 2002) if the aim is to report business contribution to or detraction from sustainability (Gray & Milne, 2004). This study is in response to the call for normative research on the central role of integrated indicators (GRI, 2002:45) in genuine sustainability reports. Analysis of sustainable development is used to justify the need to produce and use integrated indicators that measure two or the three dimensions of sustainability (economic, social and environmental) and that relate business performance to the state of the environment. According to the literature businesses use sustainability reports to choose the meaning and implications of sustainable development (Adams 2004; Larrinaga & Bebbington, 2001; O’Dwyer, 2003; Owen, Gray & Bebbington, 1997; Owen, Swift, Humphrey & Bowerman, 2000), thereby mitigating its power to change the status quo (Lélé, 1991). The reports, characterised by their voluntary nature, are being produced following one of the initiatives that provide guidance on disclosing sustainability information. Consequently, these initiatives may be encouraging managerial capture of the concept. Content analysis of five of the main international initiatives on sustainability reports will be used to show their underlying vision of sustainable development by identifying the integrated indicators that they propose. The normative nature of this research helps to improve current practice in the production of sustainability reports by proposing integrated indicators to resolve deficiencies in the proposals from international initiatives. In turn empirical analysis of these deficiencies will help to further understanding of current practice and the discourses underlying the notion of sustainability. The work is organised in six sections. After this introduction Section 2 analyses the concept of sustainable development and the need to use integrated indicators so that businesses can correctly report on their contribution to sustainability. Section 3 analyses how integrated indicators can favour a given vision of sustainable development. Section 4 describes the study sample and the research method. Section 5 presents the results and finally the conclusions are discussed in Section 6.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
This work responds to Gray’s (2002) call to channel research towards what sustainability reporting should be so that it can comply with its aim of reporting on business performance in terms of contributing or detracting from sustainability (Gray & Milne, 2004). This study shows that integrated indicators are an efficient means of resolving the gaps identified by content analysis in the international initiatives, justifying their use as a necessary condition for companies to improve their practice in producing sustainability reports. In turn,the gaps detected help to interpret the underlying discourse on sustainability in the initiatives. Through analysis of the requirements emerging from the concept of sustainable development this study concludes that a genuine sustainability report must comply with the following necessary conditions: it must provide (a) a vision of the system, (b) a holistic, balanced vision and (c) the relationship between both visions. It must also deal with aspects defended by the notion of strong sustainability. A sustainability report can comply with these conditions by using integrated indicators. Thus systemic integrated indicators will provide information on the impact on the environment but not on a firm’s performance in isolation; transversal indicators are designed to show the interconnections of economic, environmental and social aspects which, if they were to remain hidden, could distort the image of the real situation. Combined indicators show how these interrelationships must be connected to the environment in order to achieve sustainability. However, sustainability reports require integrated indicators to help firms deal with aspects aligned with strong sustainability arguments. Like certain accounting techniques integrated indicators classified within the vision of weak sustainability favour a firm’s progress towards sustainability, but indicators in the strong sustainability category are the most appropriate for the purpose (Bebbington & Thomson, 1996). This work provides evidence of managerial capture, noted in Section 3 through a content analysis of five of the main international initiatives on sustainability reports. This procedure, in addition to updating previous studies with the latest versions of the initiatives, supplies evidence on the set of initiatives based on reproducible inferences provided by the resulting data. The fact of focusing the analysis on integrated indicators helps to detect absences and issues pending development which could be met by other additional indicators to those proposed in the initiatives. The results show the deficiencies in the indicators that measure the conditions necessary for a sustainability report. Thus the low number of systemic integrated indicators makes it difficult to provide a system vision that, according to Gray and Milne (2004), a sustainability report needs to focus on the impact on the environment rather than on the firm’s performance in isolation. There are many transversal integrated indicators that would enable a holistic vision of the three dimensions of sustainability and their interconnections. However, although the high number of economic and environmental indicators, together with systemic indicators, means that various aspects of eco-efficiency are covered, the absences of eco-justice aspects mean that the vision cannot be considered holistic and balanced. The detection of a single combined integrated indicator suggests that the aim of combining a systemic and holistic vision (which as Bebbington (2001) points out is necessary in the concept of sustainable development) is not being achieved. Most of the indicators identified cover aspects of weak sustainability. Thus more indicators need to be developed which (a) broaden company responsibility by measuring performance through life cycle analysis (especially eco-justice aspects); (b) internalise external environmental and social costs; and (c) measure how the company is increasing/reducing the problems with the current system at global level (such as the exhaustion and deterioration of natural resources and economic and social inequalities). It could be argued that the initiatives do not propose certain indicators for strong sustainability because they are very difficult to measure, as according to Bennet & James (1998:74) data for evaluating life cycle is difficult to collect. However, the initiatives, unlike firms do not have to deal with the process of gathering information and measuring performance and so they can be criticised for being self-limiting because of potential problems which might appear in the process, thereby sacrificing the issues necessary for genuine sustainability reporting. As relevant aspects are not included and as the standards are easy for firms to achieve given the simplicity of what is to be measured and the uncompromising nature of the information required, the risk is that the initiatives are encouraging reports that do not discharge accountability (Gray & Milne, 2004:72). These results suggest a vision of sustainability comparable to the vision of environmental management. That vision involves avoiding ethical and political concerns associated to aspects of eco-justice and enables companies to make economic savings by managing environmental aspects related to eco-efficiency (Bebbington & Gray, 2001; Gray & Bebbington, 2001). The fact that the initiatives analysed are biased towards weak sustainability aspects has contributed to a rapid institutionalisation of social, environmental and sustainability reporting, ignoring the need proposed by sustainable development to change the status quo (Gray, 2001). According to Hibbitt (1999) if sustainability accounting does not make visible the tension between capitalism and the planet’s ability to bear the load, it is supporting the status quo and this situation is a crucial impediment to any real progress (Gray & Milne, 2004). Therefore, although the initiatives have explicitly adopted the definition of sustainable development in the Brundtland Report, the consequences and challenges of that definition have not been internalised because the initiatives only cover aspects of weak sustainability thereby favouring managerial capture and consequently dashing the expectations that were generated when the report was published. The results of this study invite reflection on the social responsibility that initiatives must assume in order to achieve greater consistency between the guidelines they offer and the implications of sustainable development. In this regard, there is a need to either adopt a focus closer to the notion of strong sustainability or assume, on the contrary, that its current direction facilitates Triple Bottom Line reports rather than genuine sustainability reports. This approach would avoid the assimilation of both types of reports and ultimately, the managerial capture of sustainable development.