Sustainability reporting assurance : creating stakeholder accountability through hyperreality?

Authors: Boiral, Olivier; Heras-Saizarbitoria, Iñaki
Abstract: Sustainability reporting has become a common practice and is generally considered to be positive. Yet, a growing body of scholarly literature has criticized the transparency and usefulness of this practice. The main objective of this paper is to provide a critical analysis of the reliability of assurance statements for sustainability reports and their contribution to stakeholder accountability. The qualitative content analysis of 337 assured sustainability reports from the mining and energy sectors reveals that assurance statements do not demonstrate a material, substantial, and credible verification process. They tend rather to appear as a hyperreal practice largely divorced from critical sustainability issues and stakeholder concerns. This practice is based on self-referential and procedural accounting rhetoric supported by assurance standards disconnected from the specific requirements of sustainability reporting. The paper questions the mainstream literature’s assumptions about the current practice of assurance statements and their improvement over time. The study has also practical implications for assurance practitioners, reporting organizations, and stakeholders.
Document Type: Article de recherche
Issue Date: 25 September 2019
Open Access Date: 25 September 2021
Document version: AM
Creative Commons Licence:
This document was published in: Journal of cleaner production, Vol. 243, 1-42 (2020)
Alternative version: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.118596
Collection:Articles publiés dans des revues avec comité de lecture

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