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Towards a conceptual framework for non-financial reporting inclusive of pandemic and climate risk reporting

Subhash Abhayawansa (Swinburne Business School, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia)
Carol Adams (Durham University Business School, Durham University, Durham, UK and Swinburne Business School, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia)

Meditari Accountancy Research

ISSN: 2049-372X

Article publication date: 12 July 2021

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to evaluate non-financial reporting (NFR) frameworks insofar as risk reporting is concerned. This is facilitated through analysis of the adequacy of climate- and pandemic-related risk reporting in three industries that are both significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and are at risk from climate change. The pervasiveness of pandemic and climate-change risks have been highlighted in 2020, the hottest year on record and the year the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Stakeholders might reasonably expect reporting on these risks to have prepared them for the consequences.

Design/methodology/approach

The current debate on the “complexity” of sustainability and NFR frameworks/standards is critically analysed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and calls to “build back better”. Context is provided through analysis of risk reporting by the ten largest airlines and the five largest companies in each of the hotel and cruise industries.

Findings

Risk reporting on two significant issues, pandemics and climate change, is woefully inadequate. While very little consideration has been given to pandemic risks, disclosures on climate-related risks focus predominantly on “risks” of increased regulation rather than physical risks, indicating a short-term focus. The disclosures are dispersed across different corporate reporting media and fail to appreciate the long-term consequences or offer solutions. Mindful that a conceptual framework for NFR must address this, the authors propose a new definition of materiality and recommend that sustainable development risks and opportunities be placed at the core of a future framework for connected/integrated reporting.

Research limitations/implications

For sustainable development risks to be perceived as “real” by managers, further research is needed to determine the nature and extent of key sustainable development risks and the most effective mitigation strategies.

Social implications

This paper highlights the importance of recognising the complexity of the issues facing organisations, society and the planet and addressing them by encouraging robust consideration of the interdependencies in evolving approaches to corporate reporting.

Originality/value

This study contributes to the current debate on the future of corporate reporting in light of two significant interconnected crises that threaten business and society – the pandemic and climate change. It provides evidence to support a long-term oriented and holistic approach to risk management and reporting.

Keywords

Citation

Abhayawansa, S. and Adams, C. (2021), "Towards a conceptual framework for non-financial reporting inclusive of pandemic and climate risk reporting", Meditari Accountancy Research, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/MEDAR-11-2020-1097

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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