Program

The Credibility Gap in Sustainability Reporting

Corporate disclosure on sustainability commitments and performance is increasingly common, but the extent to which this reporting can be trusted is largely unknown. This program is designed to build an understanding of how thorough and accurate sustainability reporting is, and to what extent its conclusions are indicative of reality.

Overview

Corporate disclosure on sustainability commitments and performance is becoming the norm. This research asks the fundamental question: how much should we trust these reports?

The research is broken into two parts. First, we run a detailed comparison of the language in corporate sustainability (or similar) reports against examples of good and poor practice. The intention is to assess whether the corporate disclosure includes the factors that led to the good/poor performance—to “read between the lines” of corporate reporting and assess both accuracy and completeness. Are the things in the report correct? Are the correct things in the report?

The second piece of the research will cast an eye toward the reporting-related mechanisms that can build credibility (auditing, assurance, third party voices, expert testimony, etc.).  Again, we want to test the scope and boundary of these credibility mechanisms against examples of good/poor performance to determine the extent to which we can trust these mechanisms. Do they paint an accurate and complete picture of the company’s commitment to and practice in sustainability?

Photo from Daniel Go/flickr

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