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Sustainability Accounting and Reporting at a Sector Level: Mapping the Terrain
2017-12-31, O'Dochartaigh, Aideen, Maughan, Rebecca
The aim of this paper is to develop our understanding of accounting and reporting for sustainability at a sector level, an area where there is a significant deficit of literature. As sustainability is a system-based concept, there is a growing recognition that sustainability reporting needs to move beyond single-entity reports towards multiple organisation reporting, such as industry, supply chain and sector-level reports. However, few studies have explored the challenges and possibilities of multiple organisation reporting, and no established sector-level reporting guidelines exist. This study advances the sustainability accounting literature by mapping the field of multiple organisation sustainability reporting, drawing together any existing literature and reviewing emerging voluntary reporting mechanisms. We identify different levels of sustainability parameters and reporting: global, national, sectoral, organisational and product. We then evaluate emerging reporting frameworks at a sectoral level, with reference to the agri-food sector, an industry with significant ecological impacts. We review these frameworks, along with a practitioner example of sustainability reporting at a sectoral level in the form of Bord Bia’s Origin Green programme, in the context of global sustainability parameters, namely planetary boundaries and the Sustainable Development Goals. In doing so we identify a lack of coherent linkages among these global parameters of sustainability and emerging reporting frameworks and reporting. We suggest directions for future research by which these gaps may be addressed.