Tuesday, November 5, 2019
Accounting Sustainability and Reporting.
Sustainability refers to striking out a balance between present needs and the future needs and accordingly making out a decision for consumption of the resources. In the context of development or consumption of resources, the sustainability means consuming resources responsibly by taking the future needs into consideration (Schaltegger, Bennett, & Burritt, 2006). The business organizations consume scarce environmental resource, few of which are difficult to be restored. Therefore, these organizations should assume a sense of responsibility to use the scarce environmental resources in an effective and efficient manner. The regulators around the world are now being actively engaged in framing the rules and regulations to achieve sustainability in the developments. Major steps at the global level are being taken to enhance the sustainable business developments. In this regard, one of the major steps taken by the regulators is compelling the business organizations to adopt sustainability accounting and reporting practices (Schaltegger, Bennett, & Burritt, 2006). Sustainability accounting and reporting practices are directed to report the steps taken by the companies towards sustainability issues. The companies have been mandated by the government regulations to contribute towards the environment and society for promoting sustainability (Brockett & Rezaee, 2012). The concept of corporate social responsibility emerged which requires the companies to contribute towards the development of society and the environment. The sustainability accounting is a broad concept that provide for aligning the sustainability initiatives with the organizational strategies. Sustainability accounting not only involves reporting on the sustainability initiatives, but it also involves evaluation of the risks and threats to the environment and measurement of the companyÃ¢â¬â¢s performance from environmental perspective. The issues of sustainability are being considered at the international level requiring the firms to adopt these practices. The adoption of sustaina ble business practices is considered beneficial not for a firm only but for the overall economic environment at the global level (Brockett & Rezaee, 2012). The report presented here is aimed at exploring the significance of sustainability accounting and reporting practices in the overall economic development of a country. In order to achieve this aim, the report will address the following objectives: This research report covers a comprehensive literature review to gather the views of existing literatures on sustainability accounting and reporting. Further, the report takes on data analysis on the subject matter of the research to find out actual impact on the corporations and economy. In this regard, the report precisely describes the methodology used to collect and analyze the data. Further, a discussion taking the view of existing literatures and the findings of the data analysis has been carried out followed by a concise conclusion being drawn.Ã Ã Ã The literature review section of the entire research report is very crucial. In this section, the researcher gets the knowledge of existing literatures on the subject matter of research, which is necessary to understand the foundation of the research (Jesson, 2011). Further, the review of literature also boosts up the confidence of the researcher by providing a strong foundation for data collection and analysis. The current research focuses on sustainability accounting and reporting, thus, the review of existing literatures focuses around this topic. In order to carry out the review of literatures appropriately, the entire subject matter has been bifurcated into different heads as discussed below. According to Soderstrom (2013), traditionally, the accounting and reporting practices in the firms could be found to be focusing on communicating the financial information and operational data to the stakeholders. However, the process of accounting and reporting has undergone a severe change to include the reporting on the sustainability issues. Over the last two decades, a drastic change in the approaches of reporting to the stakeholders has been witnessed (Soderstrom, 2013). The government regulations made it compulsory for the corporations to report on the corporate sustainability in their annual reports. The origin of sustainability reporting can be traced in way back 1960s and 1970s; however, the popularity was very less. As per the survey conducted by one of the worldÃ¢â¬â¢s largest accounting firms, Ã¢â¬Å"Earns & YoungÃ¢â¬ , only 1% of the 500 fortune companies were found to be reporting on the social and environmental sustainability in the mid 1970s in the United States (Soderstrom, 2013). According to Zu (2008), in the mid 1990s, triple bottom line reporting was introduced to promote sustainability (Zu, 2008). The triple bottom line model of reporting was primarily aimed at balancing the three crucial aspects of the business such as society, environment, and profitability. This model provided that the business should not only concentrate on the profits, but equal emphasis should also be given to the social and environmental aspects. Further, the triple bottom line reporting model also claims that the profitability of the company automatically increases when proper balance between the needs of shareholders, society, and the environment is maintained. This model greatly emphasized the role of society and environment in building the firmÃ¢â¬â¢s business and enhancing the firmÃ¢â¬â¢s value in the long run (Zu, 2008). Further, in the year 1997, the Global Reporting Initiative, a non-profit organization was founded, which provided for guidelines in regard to sustainability accounting and reporting by the firms (GRI, 2008). It was the increased need for sustainability that laid the establishment of Global Reporting Initiative in the last 1990s. According to Gupta & Mason (2014), the Global Reporting Initiatives (GRI) provides reporting frameworks which assist the corporations in complying with the legal reporting requirements in regard to sustainability. Global Reporting Initiatives (GRI) has issued G3 guidelines which cover three core areas of sustainability such as economic, social, and environment. Gupta & Mason (2014), further state that reporting under the G3 guidelines helps the corporations enhance transparency and goodwill in the market which ultimately affects the worth of the company positively (Gupta & Mason, 2014).Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã According to Daizy & Das (2014), Sustainability reporting has become part of the strategic decision making in the firms. Both, management as well as other stakeholders such as shareholders, society, and the government are benefited in some or other way by the sustainability reporting practices. The primary reason for sustainability reporting is to ensure that the efforts made by the corporations towards sustainability are measured and communicated to the stakeholders (Daizy & Das, 2014). Further, in the views of Daizy & Das (2014), the companies can improve their operational efficiency and ensure growth in the shareholderÃ¢â¬â¢s value in the long run by implementing and maintaining the sustainability reporting practices. Thus, apart from being a regulatory requirement, the sustainability reporting is also crucial for the long term growth (Daizy & Das, 2014). Further, sustainability reporting assists the management in analyzing the non financial factors and finding out impact of those factors on the firmÃ¢â¬â¢s profitability. In the present scenario, it has been really pertinent to measure and evaluate the impact of non financial factors such as society and environment on the financial performance of the firm (Daizy & Das, 2014). It is compulsory for the firms to continually contribute towards the social and environmental sustainability and assess its impact on the firmÃ¢â¬â¢s financial performance. This assessment can be carried out with the help of structured data which is prepared through the sustainability accounting and reporting practices. Therefore, sustainability accounting and reporting plays a crucial role in analysis and decision making, whether it is being done by the management for internal purposes or by the shareholders (Daizy & Das, 2014). Ã Ã Ã Ã The sustainability reporting has become part and parcel of financial reporting for most of the corporations in the 21 st century (CPA, 2013). The adoption of sustainability reporting has been promoted not only because regulators made is obligatory, but more due to its enduring advantages. The sustainability reporting provides benefits to all type of companies and in particular the large corporations are benefited in the form of enhanced shareholderÃ¢â¬â¢s confidence, improved goodwill in the market, and improved operational efficiency. Further, there are many other indirect advantages of adopting the sustainability reporting practices, for example, savings in resource consumption, cost reduction, waste reduction, and improved relationship with regulatory bodies (CPA, 2013).Ã As per Faisal, Tower, & Rusmin (2012), about 250 companies from all over the world have adopted the corporate sustainability reporting practices and providing a separate report on the social and environmental initiatives (Faisal, Tower, & Rusmin, 2012). The large corporations and particularly the companies listed on the stock exchanges are being more complaint in regard to sustainability reporting than the smaller companies. The authors further state that though the sustainability reporting is increasing at the global level, but it is still imbalanced. It is perceived that the adoption of sustainability reporting adds additional burden on the smaller firms and thus, it has not been made obligatory for them in most of the countries. However, the bigger firms (listed companies) are quite capable to bear that additional burden and also the fact that these firms consume the environmental and economic resources at the large scale and affect the bigger part of the society, leads to making the adoption of sustainability reporting practices compulsory for them (Faisal, Tower, & Rusmin, 2012). Though adoption of sustainability reporting practices is advantageous for the firms but at the same it is challenging also. According to Faisal, Tower, & Rusmin (2012), the first key challenge in implanting the sustainability reporting effectively is identification of the needs of target audience. The sustainability reports are prepared to provide information on the approach followed by the company towards the social and environmental issues. The key challenge is to decide a standard format so that the information is communicated to the target audience in the best manner. However, challenges in this area are to some extent lessened by the guidelines provided by GRI. Further, the firms also struggle in measuring and evaluating the impact of its activities on the society and the environment precisely. It is quite a subjective matter to measure and evaluate the impact of firmÃ¢â¬â¢s activities on the social lives and the environment Faisal, Tower, & Rusmin (2012). Despite these challenges, the firms are adopting the sustainability reporting practices all over the world. According to OECD (2008), 120 companies out of total 500 have adopted the sustainability reporting and these numbers are expected to increase further in future. However, the popularity of sustainability reporting is increasing rapidly in Australia, but comparing it at the global level, it seems that improvements are still needed (OECD, 2008). There is a need to make strong efforts by the regulators, government, and the corporations to make sustainability reporting widespread in the country. The regulator has to consider that making the sustainability reporting obligatory for only listed companies would not be enough. The small and medium sized firms should also be encouraged to come forward and adopt the best sustainability reporting practices (OECD, 2008).Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã According to Vasile et al. (2016), the sustainability reporting fixes responsibility on the companies to make legitimate efforts towards development of society, environment, and the overall economy. There are various aspects which could be put into discussion to assess the impact of sustainability reporting on the economy. These aspects are improvement in living standards of the people, savings in the consumption of scarce natural resources, and improvement in firmÃ¢â¬â¢s long term profitability. Vasile et al. (2016), further state that development of the society and environment are the elements of economy development, thus, if the efforts are made to improve the society or the environment, the economy will automatically be affected positively (Vasile et al., 2016). According to Higgins (2013), the sustainability and economic development are interdependent on each other. The gross domestic product indicates economic growth. If a country chases high growth in the GDP, it would require increasing the production quantities at a large scale (Higgins, 2013). The increase in production of goods would entail consumption of resources at the large scale. The consumption of resources at a rapid pace is dangerous for the sustainability. Therefore, the need to strike out a balance between the desired economic growth and the consumption of resources in a sustainable manner is essential. Further states that balancing the current economic growth and the consumption of the resources is crucial for long run survival of the economy (Higgins, 2013).Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã The reporting on sustainability issues has raised awareness in the business firms to save wastage of resources. The reduction in wastage of resources enhances the profitability of the firms which in turn increases the economic growth positively (Higgins, 2013). Further, as part of the sustainability efforts, the business firms are also contributing significantly for improving the societies. The contribution of the firms in this direction is critical to rise up the living standard of the people. Further, the improvement in the living standard is crucial for the overall economic growth. Thus, it could be said that the sustainability efforts made by the firms are essential for the overall improvement in the economic conditions of not only a country but at the global level (Higgins, 2013). In the views of Daly (2014), the economic development in the sustainable manner could be slow but it will be study and long last. The sustainability gives an impression that the resources are not to be used heedlessly (Daly, 2014). The firms are required to keep the needs of future in mind while consuming environmental resources. The consideration of future needs leads to consumption of the resources in a responsible manner which might lead to slow growth. However, the growth may be slow but it would be study. Consuming resources in this manner, the firm will be able to sustain its business for longer term which would ultimately affect its value positively (Daly, 2014).Ã Ã Ã The views of authors on sustainability accounting and reporting have been analyzed in this section. The literatures were reviewed with the objective of finding out the impact of sustainability accounting and reporting practices on the overall economic development of a country. In this regard, many authors provided their views on the reasons for evolution of the sustainability accounting and reporting practices. Some of the authors stated that it has become a mandatory requirement and few of them stated that sustainability accounting and reporting practices affects the value of the firm positively in the long run. Further, review of literatures reveal that though the adoption of sustainability reporting benefits the firm but it is quite a challenging task. However, the implantation of sustainability reporting could be vital for the overall economic development sustainability.Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã A systematic approach is adopted in conducting a research which involves application of appropriate methodology to collect the required data and apply the data analysis tools. The tools and techniques applied in the research for data collection could be scientific requiring application of principles of statics (Olsen, 2011). The selection of appropriate data collection methods and the analytical tools is critical for completing the research in an effective manner. There are two main categories of data collection methods such as primary and secondary. The primary data collection methods comprises of the methods such as survey and interview. Further, the secondary data collection methods comprises of the methods such as review of the documents and observations (Olsen, 2011). It has been observed that the secondary data collection methods are suited the best in the case of qualitative researches. The research carried out in this report aims at exploring the impact of accounting sustainability and reporting practices on the overall economic development (Lapan, Quartaroli, & Riemer, 2011). The research is qualitative in nature, thus, the secondary data collection methods have been applied. For the purpose of this research, the data has been collected through study of books, journal, reports of regulatory authorities and the government. In this regard, it has been ensured that the data collected is latest; therefore, the books, journals, and the reports of the regulatory authorities of the latest years have been referred for data collection (Lapan, Quartaroli, & Riemer, 2011). The data collection was organized in three categories such as reasons for adoption of sustainability accounting and reporting by the firms, impact on the firmÃ¢â¬â¢s value of sustainability reporting, and its impact on the overall economy (Lapan, Quartaroli, & Riemer, 2011). The data collected in regard to reasons for adoption of sustainability reporting practices relates to identification of the key drivers of sustainability. Further, the data collected in regard to impact on the firmÃ¢â¬â¢s value covers the profitability and net worth of the firmÃ¢â¬â¢s before and after the adoption of sustainability reporting. Further, in regard to evaluation of impact on the overall economy, the data relates to macro economic factors such as gross domestic product, standard of living, poverty levels, and reductions in the carbon emissions (Lapan, Quartaroli, & Riemer, 2011).Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã The data collection process has been carried out ethically and in an effective manner so that all the required information could be gathered. There certain limitations of the secondary data, which are required to be made explicit so as to assist the readers in drawing conclusions (Ary et al., 2013). The secondary data is prone to the risk of inappropriateness and there exists lack of control on preparation of the secondary data. Thus, effectiveness of the research carried out based on the secondary data depends upon the accuracy of the data. Further, the ethical concerns in regard to the use of secondary have been adhered to carefully. Proper referencing and citations have been given in the report wherever considered necessary to give credit to the authors whose data is used (Ary et al., 2013).Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã The research report presented here has main goal of finding out the impact of sustainability reporting on the economy of a country. In order to achieve this goal, it has been considered pertinent to find out the reasons for adoption of the sustainability reporting practices. The sustainability reporting provides value addition to the firm in various ways .There are countless parameters which can be used to assess the value added by sustainability reporting as shown in the figure given below: Figure 1: Value Added by Sustainability Reporting (EY, 2013) From the figure show above, it could be observed that there are various areas which are positively affected by adoption of sustainability reporting practices. It could be observed that more than 40% of the total surveyed companies consider that improved reputation is the major factor which drives the adoption of sustainability reporting practices (EY, 2013). The adoption of sustainability reporting practices enhances the confidence of investors and consumers which helps in building reputation in the market. Further, there were more than 35% companies which claimed that sustainability reporting is crucial in increasing the employee loyalty. EmployeeÃ¢â¬â¢s loyalty is very important for the firms to achieve the targets on time and succeed in the market. Further, few companies also found increase in the consumer loyalty due to adoption of the sustainability reporting (EY, 2013). Further, the sustainability reporting also helped the firms to make their strategies stronger in terms of long run business and refine their visions. Further, there were observed around 25% companies which claimed that achieving reduction in wastage of the natural resources was one of the primary reasons for promotion of sustainability reporting (EY, 2013). The other commonly accepted factors which laid the adoption of sustainability reporting were improved relationship with the regulatory bodies, reduced long term risk, enhanced long term profitability (EY, 2013). Due the above discussed factors, the sustainability reporting has been adopted by various firms world-wide. The following chart shows the growth in sustainability reporting adoption from to year 2000 to 2011: Figure 2: Growth in Sustainability Reporting (EY, 2013) From the chart presented above, it could be observed that there has been a complete transformation since the year 2008. The increase in the number of companies adopting sustainability reporting practices has been enormous from the year 2008 to 2011. Within a period of 3-4 years, the number of companies complying with the sustainability reporting guidelines (issued by GRI) has increased to a significant level (EY, 2013). Further, data has been collected and analyzed to find out the impact of sustainability reporting on the firmÃ¢â¬â¢s profitability and its value. The firms perceive that consuming resources optimally keeping the future needs in mind will help them build better tomorrow. Further, the reduction in cost and risk and increase in reputation and quality are expected to lead the firm on the path of high profitability in the long run. The implementation of the sustainability accounting and reporting practices increases the legal compliances and it also put additional burden on the firm in terms of new manpower. Further, the benefits of sustainability reporting accrue over the years in the long run. Therefore, in the short run, the impact on profitability of the firm employing sustainability reporting practices may be adverse, but it would be positive in the long run.Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã The data analysis conducted NWOBU (2015) reveals that there exists a positive correlation between the profit after tax and sustainability reporting index. The profit after tax depicts profitability of the company while the score on sustainability index indicates the compliance level of the firm with sustainability reporting requirements. Thus, a positive correlation between profit after tax and sustainability index is the indicative of the fact that with the increased compliance of sustainability reporting, the firmÃ¢â¬â¢s experience increase in their profitability. The research of NWOBU (2015) reveals that correlation between profit after tax and the sustainability index is 0.281, which is low positive correlation. The correlation of 0.281 implies that increase in sustainability index would entail increase in the profit after tax, but the increase in profitability might at the low rate (NWOBU, 2015). Further, the correlation between shareholderÃ¢â¬â¢s fund and sustainability index was also analyzed. The correlation between these two factors was found to be 0.183, which can again be categorized as positive and low (NWOBU, 2015). Thus, the interpretation would remain as it was before in case of profit after tax. Therefore, the increase in sustainability index would entail increase in the shareholderÃ¢â¬â¢s fund. It is to be noted that the shareholderÃ¢â¬â¢s fund represents the value of a firm. Thus, it could be articulated that with the increase in sustainability index, the value of the firm increases. However, the increase might be at very slow rate (NWOBU, 2015). After analyzing the impact of sustainability reporting on the firmÃ¢â¬â¢s profitability and its value, it is essential to observe the changes in the macro economic factors due to adoption of sustainability reporting practices (Talberth, 2010). In this regard, it is considered crucial to analyze the gross domestic product, standards living of the people, and poverty level. It is argued that sustainable business practices may cause reduction in the overall gross domestic product of the country. The reduction in GDP may be caused due to reduction the production level caused by decrease in the consumption of the environmental resources. For example, if the mining companies decrease the exploration of minerals, the production level of commodities will go down affecting the gross domestic product adversely. However, due to recent shift in the economic and environmental conditions, the gross domestic product is no longer considered to be reliable measure of well being of an economy. The p erformance on sustainability indices is taking place of gross domestic product now a day (Talberth, 2010). Further, the improvement in the sustainability practices also implies contribution to the society at a large scale. The firms working in the economy make combined efforts to raise the living standard of the people. Further, with the rise in the living standard of the people, the poverty level automatically goes down. Therefore, it could be inferred that the improvements in the sustainability reporting enable the economy to stabilize and grow in a sustainable manner (Talberth, 2010).Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã The research carried out in this report addresses the crucial matter which relates to adoption of sustainability accounting and reporting practices by the firms operating in the economy. The aim of this research is to explore that whether the sustainability accounting and reporting is essential for the economy or not. In order to achieve the aim, the activities of the research are bounded by three objectives. The literature review has been carried out around these three objectives and the data analysis has also been conducted by keeping the three identified objectives in the centerfield. The articulation of the reviews of various authors reveals that promotion of sustainability accounting and reporting is really important for the well being of the overall economy (Daly, 2014). The authors state that there are various factors which make the firms to adopt the sustainability reporting. The improvement in the market reputation of the firm is one of the most crucial factors in that regard. The views of the authors reveal that firmÃ¢â¬â¢s reputation is improved to a great extent when it complies with the sustainability reporting guidelines. Further, the data analysis also supports this view of the authors. The analysis of data findings reveals that most of the companies consider the market reputation as one of the essential factor in adoption of the sustainability reporting practices (EY, 2013). Further, there have been identified few other factors as well such as customer loyalty, operational efficiency, and regulatory compliances. These factors also make the firm to comply with the sustainability accounting and reporting practices. In regard to the impact on firmÃ¢â¬â¢s financial performance, the authors state that the adoption of the sustainability reporting affects it positively in the long run. However, in the short run there may be adverse effect due to high compliance cost at the beginning. Further, the findings of the data analysis also support this view of the authors. The data analysis depicts that the sustainability reporting and the firmÃ¢â¬â¢s financial performance are positively correlated. This implies that the financial performance of the firms which comply with the sustainability reporting practices is found to be better than the firms not complying with it. Further, it has also been explored that the firmÃ¢â¬â¢s value (shareholderÃ¢â¬â¢s equity) is also affected positively by the adoption of sustainability reporting practices (EY, 2013). In regard to impact on the overall economy, the authors have stated that sustainability accounting and reporting is necessary to achieve economic development in a sustainable manner (Higgins, 2013). Further, the data gathered from the secondary sources also supports this view of the authors. The findings of the data analysis reveal that adoption of sustainability in the operations leads to contribution by the firms towards social and environmental causes. The firms contribute at the large scale to save the scarce environmental resources and to raise the living standard of the people. Further, the protection of the natural resources is very critical from the view point of sustainability. Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã The report presented here presents a research study on the sustainability accounting and reporting. The primary aim of the research is to explore the impact of sustainability accounting and reporting on the overall economy of a country. In this regard, it has been considered essential to find out the impact of sustainability reporting on a particular company and then on the overall economy. Based on the findings of the report, it can be concluded that the sustainability reporting is essential for the long term economic development. The articulations drawn from the literature review bring out the fact that sustainability reporting has become crucial for the firms to survive and thrive in the market. The recent developments in the areas of social and environmental sustainability are admirable. The regulators from all over the world are making collective efforts to make the business sustainable and futuristic. The survey report of EY discloses that there has been observed a significant increase in the number of firms adopting the sustainability reporting practices since the year 2008. From the findings of data analysis, it could be articulated that the increased awareness and the enduring advantages of sustainability is pushing the firms to opt for the best sustainability accounting and reporting practices. The major advantages of sustainability reporting have been identified as the improvements in the firmÃ¢â¬â¢s reputation, enhancement in the investorÃ¢â¬â¢s confidence, employeeÃ¢â¬â¢s loyalty, and consumers trust. Further, the company is also able build a good rapport with the governmental regulatory authorities. However, there certain challenges which the firms have to while implementing the sustainability accounting and reporting practices. Among various such challenges, the high operating cost and administrative problems are the major ones. Though, there are challenges, but the benefits of sustainability accounting and reporting are enduring, therefore, the firms have to make effort to implement it. Further, it was observed that sustainability reporting is also essential to raise the standard of living of the society and the maintaining a proper balance between the present and future needs. From the findings of the research, it could be inferred that maintaining a proper balance is crucial for long term economic developments. The sustainability in operations not only improves the financial performance of the firm but it also enhances its value. Further, the overall economy is affected in a positive manner which is the center point of the sustainability accounting and reporting. Schaltegger, S., Bennett, M., & Burritt, R. 2006. Sustainability Accounting and Reporting. Springer Science & Business Media. Brockett, A. & Rezaee, Z. 2012. Corporate Sustainability: Integrating Performance and Reporting. John Wiley & Sons. Jesson, J. 2011. Doing Your Literature Review: Traditional and Systematic Techniques. London: SAGE. Soderstrom, N. 2013. 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Ary, D., Jacobs, L.C., Sorensen, C.K., and Walker, D. 2013. Introduction to research in education. Cengage Learning. Lapan, S.D., Quartaroli, M.T. &Riemer, F.J. 2011. Qualitative Research: An Introduction to Methods and Designs. John Wiley & Sons. NWOBU, O. 2015. The Relationship between Corporate Sustainability Reporting and Profitability and Shareholders Fund in Nigerian Banks. The Journal of Accounting and Management, 5(3). Talberth, J. 2010. Measuring What Matters: GDP, Ecosystems and the Environment. Retrieved February 08, 2017, from https://www.wri.org/blog/2010/04/measuring-what-matters-gdp-ecosystems-and-environment