Corporate ESG reporting quantity, quality and performance: Where to now for environmental policy and practice?

Susanne Arvidsson, John Dumay

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Abstract

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are driving corporate strategy and performance. However, does this mean more ESG reporting is being done? If so, is the quality of ESG reports improving? And what about ESG performance? In this paper, we examine these three trends in ESG reporting—quantity, quality and corporate ESG performance. With a Swedish multinational corporate focus, we analyse data from Sustainalytics, corporateregister.com and the Alliance for Corporate Transparency to answer our research questions. Our analysis shows that, while the quality of ESG information in Sweden has steadily improved, performance plateaued around 2015. Mitigating problems such as the impacts of climate change and COVID-19 call for improved ESG performance, not improved ESG reporting quantity or quality. Thus, rather than focusing on improving ESG reporting regulations, we need to redirect our focus towards creating better ESG outcomes. Therefore, we argue that companies must be asked to provide data that are more timely, relevant, credible and comparable and that demonstrate improved ESG performance. With this information, financial analysts and investors can redirect and accelerate capital flows towards corporate investments that help tackle important problems related to climate crises and the reaching of a sustainable development. Our analysis reveals that we need more research focusing on consumers, investors and policymakers. Future scholars could explore how changing consumer preferences are driving improvements in ESG performance and how changing capital market allocations affect ESG performance.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBusiness Strategy and the Environment
Volume31
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)1091-1110
Number of pages20
ISSN0964-4733
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Keywords

  • ESG information quality
  • ESG performance
  • ESG reporting quality
  • EU Green Deal
  • climate change
  • financial market
  • reporting regulation

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