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4 recent papers on sustainability reporting and its arena

Shifting the focus of sustainability accounting from impacts to risks and dependencies: researching the transformative potential of TCFD reporting


Abstract:


This paper problematizes TCFD (Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures) reporting in a way that demonstrates areas where academic research can contribute towards realizing the transformative potential of this unique form of sustainability accounting in its early stages of development.


There are several major challenges that both reporting corporations and investors need to address in realizing the potential of TCFD style risks, opportunities and dependencies reporting. Key among these is developing new practices of climate-related scenario analysis and reporting.


There is potential for many different academic research studies to provide solid evidence in helping improve the practical impact of TCFD style sustainability reporting. These impacts may assist in moving corporate policies and actions towards zero carbon.


On TCFD, follow the TCFD Knowledge Hub


Matter of opinion: Exploring the socio-political nature of materiality disclosures in sustainability reporting


Abstract:


The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the socio-political role of materiality assessment in sustainability reporting literature and discuss the potential of materiality assessment to advance more inclusive accounting and reporting practices, in particular critical dialogic accounting.


The authors argue that, first, the technic-rational approach to materiality portrays the assessment as a neutral and value-free measurement, and second, the materiality matrix presents the multiple stakeholders as having a unified understanding of what is considered important in corporate sustainability. Thus, the technic-rational approach to the materiality assessment, reinforced with the use of the matrix is a value-laden judgement of what matters in corporate sustainability and narrows down rather than opens up the complexity of the assessment of material sustainability issues, stakeholder engagement and the societal pursuit of sustainable development.


The understandings and implications of the concept of materiality are ambiguous and wide-reaching, as, through constituting the legitimised set of claims and information on corporate sustainable performance, it impacts our understanding of sustainable development at large, and affects the corporate and policy-level transition towards sustainability. Exploring insights from critical dialogic accounting help us to elaborate on the conceptions and practical implications of materiality assessment that enhance stakeholder engagement in a democratic, rather than managerial, spirit.


See also on materiality, the following report (2020)





Subpolitics and sustainability reporting boundaries. The case of working conditions in global supply chains


Abstract:


This paper explores the subpolitical role and main characteristics of a specific accounting technique, sustainability reporting boundaries. Its focus is on how the sett2ing of sustainability reporting boundaries affects the definition and distribution of social risks along the supply chain, particularly the risks related to working condition and human rights.


The analysis suggests that accounting technologies that set contested boundaries are subpolitical, that is, defined outside traditional political processes. The paper finds that the way social risks are framed along the supply chain renders them invisible and impersonal and that the framing of these risks becomes endless as they are contested by different groups of experts. Setting sustainability reporting boundaries has subpolitical properties in producing and framing those risks, whilst is simultaneously limited by the inherent politicisation of such an exercise. The questionable legitimacy of sustainability reporting boundaries calls for the construction not only of discursive justifications but also of new possibilities for political participation.


The contribution of this paper is threefold: (1) It studies in-depth how working conditions in global supply chains are portrayed in sustainability reports. (2) It answers the call to study accounting technologies themselves, in this case sustainability reporting boundaries. (3) It extends Beck's work on global ecological dangers to working conditions in global supply chains to explore how sustainability reporting boundaries are subpolitically involved in the definition and distribution of social risks along the supply chain.


See the work of Shift on Business Models Red Flags


Understanding power-related strategies and initiatives: The case of the European Commission Green Paper on CSR


Abstract:


The purpose of this paper is to provide a theoretically informed analysis of a struggle for power over the regulation of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and social and environmental accounting and reporting (SEAR) within the European Union.

The results show that the 2001 GP was a “triggering event” (Hoffman, 1999) that led to the formation of the institutional arena that centred on whether CSR policy and reporting should be voluntary or mandatory. The findings highlight how two separate, but related forms of power (systemic and episodic power) were exercised much more effectively by companies compared to NGOs. The analysis of the power initiatives and discursive strategies deployed in the arena provides a theoretically informed understanding of the ways in which companies acted in concert to reach their objective of maintaining CSR and SEAR as a voluntary activity.

The theoretical framework outlined in the paper highlights how the analysis of CSR and SEAR regulation can be enriched by examining the deployment of episodic and systemic power by relevant actors.


Follow the work of the PTF-NFRS of EFRAG here

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