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Sustainability reporter classification matrix: explaining variations in disclosure quality

Muhammad Bilal Farooq (Department of Accounting, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Ammad Ahmed (Queensland University of Technology Business School, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia)
Muhammad Nadeem (Department of Accounting, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)

Meditari Accountancy Research

ISSN: 2049-372X

Article publication date: 7 June 2018

Issue publication date: 25 June 2018




The purpose of this study is to develop a sustainability reporter classification matrix (hereafter referred to as the “matrix”) to explain why some reporters publish better-quality sustainability reports than others and why some reporters experience improvements in the quality of their sustainability reports while others experience no improvement or a decline in sustainability report quality.


The study draws on the existing literature, which is analysed using a combination of legitimacy theory (i.e. commitment to sustainability reporting) and resource-based view (RBV, i.e. competencies in sustainability reporting).


A two-dimensional matrix is developed representing organisations’ competencies in (explained using the RBV) and commitment to (explained using legitimacy theory) sustainability reporting. Based on these two dimensions the matrix identifies four reporter classifications: incompetent uncommitted reporters (who publish low-quality reports); competent uncommitted reporters (who publish average-quality reports); incompetent committed reporters (who publish average-quality reports); and competent committed reporters (who publish high-quality reports). The matrix explains how reporters can transition from one quadrant/classification to another and how this transition can be either forward (moving from a lower quadrant to a higher quadrant), resulting in improvements in report quality, or backward (moving from a higher quadrant to a lower quadrant), leading to a deterioration in disclosure quality.


The study builds on the extant literature, combining legitimacy theory with the RBV, to provide a more complete explanation for why organisations publish sustainability reports of varying quality and why this quality varies over time. These insights can also be used to explain variations in the quality of integrated reports. The matrix may prove useful to practitioners as a tool for classifying reporters, identifying issues, assessing risk and tracking progress made.



Farooq, M.B., Ahmed, A. and Nadeem, M. (2018), "Sustainability reporter classification matrix: explaining variations in disclosure quality", Meditari Accountancy Research, Vol. 26 No. 2, pp. 334-352.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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