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Sustainability key performance indicators and the global reporting initiative: usage and challenges in a developing country context

Dinithi Dissanayake (UniSA Business, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia)

Meditari Accountancy Research

ISSN: 2049-372X

Article publication date: 14 October 2020

Issue publication date: 23 June 2021




First, this paper aims to explore the extent of the global reporting initiative (GRI) sustainability key performance indicator (KPI) usage in sustainability reporting by businesses operating in Sri Lanka. Second, using a contingency theory approach, this research examines the factors which promote or inhibit the use of the GRI framework to adopt sustainability KPIs in a developing country context, Sri Lanka.


Content analysis and semi-structured interviews are used in this study to explore the key factors which affect the usage of the GRI framework by Sri Lankan companies in adopting sustainability KPIs and reporting on sustainability.


The findings indicate that the GRI framework is increasingly used for sustainability reporting by Sri Lankan companies because of its flexibility, consistency, legitimacy and its focus on continuous improvement. However, company managers also shed light on the extensive number of KPIs in the GRI framework making selections challenging and the consequent difficulties associated with adapting these KPIs for companies operating in a developing country context.

Research limitations/implications

This study contributes to extending the broader literature on sustainability reporting in developing countries and specifically on sustainability KPIs. Second, this paper adds to the current empirical research on sustainability reporting in Sri Lanka where the literature is still sparse. Third, this study highlights the key factors that support or hinder the usage of the GRI framework in a developing country context.

Practical implications

Important insights for GRI, other standard-setting agencies and businesses can be drawn from the findings of this study. By capitalising further on the training and the educational courses provided by GRI, GRI can be involved in mitigating some of the pressing issues faced by the reporting companies.


This study adds to the limited research on sustainability reporting and sustainability KPIs in developing country contexts. It shows how companies in Sri Lanka are engaging with sustainability KPIs and sustainability reporting, but are also constrained by the GRI framework as its standards are not tailored to issues in developing countries.



The author thanks the anonymous reviewers and the guest editors for their invaluable feedback. She is deeply grateful for the support received from Prof Carol Tilt and Dr Wei Qian who were supervisors of the PhD project which led to this paper. She sincerely thanks Dr Joanne Tingey-Holyoak for her encouragement of this project. She also gratefully acknowledges the funding received from an Australian Government Australian Postgraduate Award scholarship which supported this research.


Dissanayake, D. (2021), "Sustainability key performance indicators and the global reporting initiative: usage and challenges in a developing country context", Meditari Accountancy Research, Vol. 29 No. 3, pp. 543-567.



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