2010- 2014: A Comparative Evolution of Sustainability Reporting in Europe and the U.S.A.

  • Diana-Maria TÎNJALĂ <p><strong>West University of Timisoara, Romania</strong></p>
Keywords: Sustainability reporting, ESG, Assurance standards, ISAE 3000, AA1000AS


The concept of sustainability has evolved to encompass environmental, social and governance issues regarding corporate behaviour. For the last few years, stakeholders have begun putting pressure on companies to report on sustainability issues. Several national and international regulations and standards have been adopted to guide companies in their reporting. To ensure the accuracy and comparability of non-financial data needed for the stakeholders’ decision making process, there is an increasing preference for the external assurance of sustainability reporting. The internationally recognized CSR report assurance standards are the International Standard on Assurance Engagements, ISAE 3000, and AccountAbility’s AA1000 Assurance Standard (AA1000AS). This study focuses on the evolution of corporate sustainability reporting, using two non-financial indicators: ESG reporting, and Assurance of ESG reporting. The data for the study is based on content analysis of both CSR reports and corporate websites, courtesy of Sustainalytics. We assessed the evolution of the two indicators from June 2010 to February 2014, for 50 listed European companies and 50 American ones. For the selected time period, US companies are shown to be worse reporters than European ones, having a negligible number of reports externally verified. Considering that for most European countries, guidelines and regulations concerning ESG reporting have already been put in place, there is a positive trend for both ESG reporting and its quality.


AccountAbility. (2012). Accountability – Setting the Standard for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainable Development. Retrieved May 5, 2014 from <http://www.accountability.org/>

AccountAbility. AA1000 Accountability Principles Standard 2008. Retrieved May 5, 2014 from <http://www.accountability.org/images/content/0/7/074/AA1000APS%202008.pdf>

Bade, D. & Harwood, I. (2013). Terminology Matters: A critical exploration of Corporate Social Responsibility Terms. Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 116, No.3, pp.615-627

Centre for Strategy and Evaluation Services (CSES). (2011). Disclosure of non-financial information by companies. Retrieved April 11, 2014 from <http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/accounting/docs/non-financial-reporting/com_2013_207-study_en.pdf>

Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), GRI Focal Point India & Thought Arbitrage Research Institute. (2012). Sustainability Reporting – Practices and Trends in India 2012. New Delhi

European Comission. (2011). A renewed EU strategy 2011-14 for Corporate Social Responsibility. Retrieved May 10, 2014 from <http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2011:0681:FIN:EN:PDF>

European Union. (2013). Directive 2013/34/EU on the annual financial statements, consolidated financial statements and related reports of certain types of undertakings.

Global Reporting Initiative. (2013). The external assurance of sustainability reporting. Research and Development Series. Retrieved May 1, 2014 from <https://www.globalreporting.org/resourcelibrary/GRI-Assurance.pdf>

Global Reporting Initiative website. What is GRI? Retrieved April 11 , 2014 from  <https://www.globalreporting.org/information/about-gri/what-is-GRI/Pages/default.aspx>

International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB). (2012). Handbook of International Quality Control, Auditing, Review, Other Assurance, and Related Services Pronouncements. International Federation of Accountants

International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB). (2013). International Standard on Assurance Engagements (ISAE) 3000 Revised, Assurance Engagements Other than Audits or Reviews of Historical Financial Information. International Federation of Accountants

Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW). (2004). Sustainability: the role of accountants. London, Retrieved April 12, 2014 from <http://www.icaew.com/en/technical/financial-reporting/information-for-better-markets/ifbm-reports/sustainability-the-role-of-accountants>

International Integrated Reporting Council. (2013). The International IR Framework. Retrieved May 3, 2014 from <http://www.theiirc.org/international-ir-framework/>

KPMG & WIMM. (2002). KPMG International Study of Corporate Sustainability Reporting 2002. Drukgroep Maasland, Maasland

Krippendorff, K. (1989). Content analysis. University of Pennsylvania, Annenberg School for Communication Departamental Papers, Retrieved May 4 , 2014 from <http://repository.upenn.edu/asc_papers/226/>

Manetti, G. & Becatti, L. (2009). Assurance Services for Sustainability Reports: Standards and Empirical Evidence. Journal of Business Ethics, Vol.87, pp.289–298

Milne, M. & Gray, R. (2013). W(h)ither Ecology? The Triple Bottom Line, the Global Reporting Initiative, and Corporate Sustainability Reporting. Journal of Business Ethics Vol.118, No.1, pp.13-29

Moore, W. (2012). Sustainability reporting: A work in progress. Journal of Sustainability and Green Business, vol. 2. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from <http://www.aabri.com/jsgb.html>

Norgaard, R. (1988). Sustainable Development – a co-evolutionary view. Futures, Vol.20, No.6, pp. 606-620

O’Dwyer, B. & Owen, D. (2007). Seeking stakeholder-centric sustainability assurance. Journal of Corporate Citizenship, Vol. 2007, No.25, pp 77-94

Pezzey, J. & Toman, M. (2002). The Economics of Sustainability: A review of Journal Articles. Resources for the future, Discussion Paper 02-03

Sen, M. & Das, N. (2013). Corporate Sustainability Reporting: A Review of Initiatives and Trends. The IUP Journal of Accounting Research & Audit Practices, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp 7-18

Tschopp, D. & Nastaski, M. (2013). The Harmonization and Convergence of Corporate Social Responsibility Reporting Standards. accepted by the Journal of Business Ethics

United Nations Global Compact website. Retrieved May 3, 2014 from <http://www.unglobalcompact.org>

van Wensen, K., Broer, W., Klein, J. & Knopf, J. (2011). The state of play in sustainability reporting in the EU. Retrieved April 10, 2014 from <http://ec.europa.eu/social/BlobServlet?docId=6727&langId=en>

World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). (2002a). The Business Case for Sustainable Development. Retrieved April 12, 2014 from <http://www.wbcsd.org/pages/edocument/edocumentdetails.aspx?id=197&nosearchcontextkey=true>

World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). (2002b). Sustainable Development Reporting – Striking the Balance. Geneva. Retrieved April 12, 2014 from <http://www.wbcsd.org/pages/edocument/edocumentdetails.aspx?id=144&nosearchcontextkey=true>

World Commission on Environment and Development. (1987). Our common future. Retrieved May 15, 2014 from <http://www.un-documents.net/wced-ocf.htm>

van Zyl, A. (2013). Sustainability and Integrated Reporting in the South African Corporate Sector. International Business & Economics Research Journal, Vol.12, No. 8, pp. 903-926

How to Cite
TÎNJALĂ, D.-M. (2015). 2010- 2014: A Comparative Evolution of Sustainability Reporting in Europe and the U.S.A. Timisoara Journal of Economics and Business, 8(1s), 47-69. Retrieved from https://www.tjeb.ro/index.php/tjeb/article/view/tjeb-vol8-2015-1s-04