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Critical reflections on sustainability reporting standard setting

Irshad Ali (Department of Accounting, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Peni T. Fukofuka (Department of Accounting, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Anil K. Narayan (Department of Accounting, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 19 May 2023

Issue publication date: 18 July 2023

1493

Abstract

Purpose

The aim of this paper is to provide critical reflections on the role of standard setters and the endeavours of various organisations to provide sustainability reporting standards.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors’ critical reflections are informed by the literature and websites of IASB, International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), global reporting initiative (GRI) and other relevant organisations. The authors use Bourdieu’s concept of field to support their analysis and critique.

Findings

The authors highlight how a disrupted standard-setting field will be a distraction from efforts to address real sustainability issues and concerns. Determining the “legitimate” sustainability reporting standards is likely to be an outcome of struggles between occupants in the sustainability standard-setting field. Accordingly, the shape of legitimate standards will be defined by those with power. The concern is the priority and the motive underpinning the endeavours of those with power. The authors propose that it is important for both the ISSB and GRI to serve the interest of a broad range of actors, including those who are not likely to have a say in sustainability reporting standard setting.

Practical implications

This paper contributes to sustainability reporting practice by putting forward a case for strengthening current sustainability reporting practices with appropriate changes to overcome some of the criticisms of the GRI.

Social implications

The authors highlight that there is a much broader group of stakeholders who require sustainability information and that it is important that the sustainability reporting standards serve the information needs of all stakeholders and not just those of the dominant actors. However, the ISSB with its economic focus will inevitably focus on the concern of investors and market participants.

Originality/value

The originality in this paper is the use of Bourdieu’s concept of field to theoretically highlight how a new standard setter may disrupt the sustainability standard-setting field and act as a distraction from efforts to address sustainability issues and concerns that the world faces.

Keywords

Citation

Ali, I., Fukofuka, P.T. and Narayan, A.K. (2023), "Critical reflections on sustainability reporting standard setting", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 776-791. https://doi.org/10.1108/SAMPJ-01-2022-0054

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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