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Sustainability materiality research: a systematic literature review of methods, theories and academic themes

Simona Fiandrino (Department of Management, University of Turin, Turin, Italy)
Alberto Tonelli (Department of Management, University of Turin, Turin, Italy)
Alain Devalle (Department of Economic, Social, Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, University of Turin, Turin, Italy)

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management

ISSN: 1176-6093

Article publication date: 26 September 2022

Issue publication date: 21 October 2022




This systematic literature review (SLR) aims to examine the extent of academic knowledge of sustainability materiality research. There is no academic review of this field; therefore, this study aims to close this research gap.


The paper systematically reviews the existing literature on sustainability materiality research. Papers were qualitatively classified and analysed in accordance with the theoretical underpinning, research methods and academic themes of sustainability materiality research.


The findings of the review show that scholarly work on sustainability materiality has increased exponentially since the 2010s. In terms of research methods, scholars have examined sustainability using content analysis techniques and qualitative approaches. A common theoretical foundation was missing, but an increasing number of articles have been anchored to stakeholder theory. The academic themes have progressively enriched empirical evidence on the evaluation of materiality in sustainability information.

Research limitations/implications

This review can be useful as an academic basis to open avenues for strengthening theoretical and empirical research on new emerging issues regarding double materiality and dynamic materiality.


This paper conducts the first SLR of academic knowledge on sustainability materiality research. Eight academic themes are proposed to classify sustainability materiality. Thus, it is an aid to future research in this area.



Fiandrino, S., Tonelli, A. and Devalle, A. (2022), "Sustainability materiality research: a systematic literature review of methods, theories and academic themes", Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 19 No. 5, pp. 665-695.



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