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