Evaluating the Governance of Sustainability Reporting: Assessing Mandatory and Voluntary Sustainability Reporting Policies and Practices Around the World
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Sustainability reporting (SR) is the practice of communicating environmental, social, and economic information and initiatives of a company (largely non-financial) to their stakeholders. This practice has been inspired by a variety of factors, including the recent threat of climate change, the financial crisis, and evolving governance models. There are many different policies being used around the world to implement SR. Some of these policies are voluntary, allowing the company to choose whether they report and what content to include. Others are more mandatory and government-regulated with specific requirements and various compliance mechanisms. Minimal research has been done on the governance of SR and the extent to which reports are achieving their policy goals. Through the creation of a sustainability scorecard, and a policy analysis of case countries, this study assesses if mandatory or voluntary standards are more effective for sustainability disclosures. Reports governed by mandatory legislation and reports under a voluntary standard are evaluated according to sustainability reporting criteria developed from semi-structured interview and literature themes. The countries studied are illuminated through a mapping analysis of SR policies, where the most mandatory-driven policy countries and the most voluntary-driven policy countries are used for the final assessment of effectiveness. This study provides structure to the complex policy mix, not only on the degree to which a policy is legally binding and mandatory, but also to its relative effectiveness to the developed criteria. The results of this study suggest that although the implementation method of mandatory or voluntary may not significantly impact reporting effectiveness at this time, mandatory countries score higher on most qualities on the sustainability reporting scorecard.