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The state of business sustainability reporting in sub-Saharan Africa: an agenda for policy and practice

Carol A. Tilt (UniSA Business, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia)
Wei Qian (UniSA Business, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia)
Sanjaya Kuruppu (UniSA Business, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia)
Dinithi Dissanayake (UniSA Business, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 29 September 2020

Issue publication date: 23 January 2021

1090

Abstract

Purpose

Developing countries experience their own social, political and environmental issues, but surprisingly limited papers have examined sustainability reporting in these regions, notably in sub-Saharan Africa. To fill this gap and understand the state of sustainability reporting in sub-Saharan Africa, this paper aims to investigate the current state of reporting, identifies the major motivations and barriers for reporting and suggests an agenda of future issues that need to be considered by firms, policymakers and academics.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper includes analysis of reporting practices in 48 sub-Saharan African countries using the lens of New Institutional Economics. It comprises three phases of data collection and analysis: presentation of overall reporting data collected and provided by Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). analysis of stand-alone sustainability reports using qualitative data analysis and interviews with key report producers.

Findings

The analysis identifies key issues that companies in selected sub-Saharan African countries are grappling within their contexts. There are significant barriers to reporting but institutional mechanisms, such as voluntary reporting frameworks, provide an important bridge between embedding informal norms and changes to regulatory requirements. These are important for the development of better governance and accountability mechanisms.

Research limitations/implications

Findings have important implications for policymakers and institutions such as GRI in terms of regulation, outreach and localised training. More broadly, global bodies such as GRI and IIRC in a developing country context may require more local knowledge and support. Limitations include limited data availability, particularly for interviews, which means that these results are preliminary and provide a basis for further work.

Practical implications

The findings of this paper contribute to the knowledge of sustainability reporting in this region, and provide some policy implications for firms, governments and regulators.

Originality/value

This paper is one of only a handful looking at the emerging phenomenon of sustainability reporting in sub-Saharan African countries.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This project was conducted in collaboration with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). The authors gratefully acknowledge the support provided, both in-kind through the provision of data, and through funding from their DFID programme.

Citation

Tilt, C.A., Qian, W., Kuruppu, S. and Dissanayake, D. (2021), "The state of business sustainability reporting in sub-Saharan Africa: an agenda for policy and practice", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 267-296. https://doi.org/10.1108/SAMPJ-06-2019-0248

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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