A Case Study on the Blended Reporting Phenomenon: A Comparative Analysis of Voluntary Reporting Frameworks and Standards – GRI, IR, SASB, and CDP
The article presents a comparative analysis of the sustainability disclosures of four companies, each of adopted different voluntary nonfinancial reporting frameworks and standards, as introduced by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), Sustainability Accounting Standard Board (SASB), and Climate Disclosure Project (CDP). The case study highlights the way in which these frameworks and standards are applied by organizations from different sectors as well as underlining the multiplicity of overlapping voluntary nonfinancial or environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting frameworks. Thus, the article provides contextual reasons for alignment (with GRI, IIRC, SASB, and CDP) toward a proposed comprehensive corporate reporting standard as will be drafted by the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB).
All these frameworks and standards are designed with distinctive characteristics to satisfy the ESG information needs of stakeholders, especially those in the financial sector. Each framework and standard tries to position itself for niche identity within the voluntary ESG reporting domain. As a result, organizations adopt all of the available contemporary non-financial sustainability or ESG reporting frameworks and standards, in a blended format. Thus, they present all non-financial information as a buffet to gain legitimacy and confidence from all stakeholders. This new trend can be termed as a blended reporting format phenomenon.
However, the study finds that reporting based on GRI is the most comprehensive, as it is designed to address the information expectations of all stakeholders. The study also found that the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) is an important normative institutional framework that is motivating companies to present sustainability information to cater to the decision-making information need of capital markets and investors, while the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) act as the most respected global moral sustainability compass.
However, the question remains as to whether sustainability information should only be seen from the financially material perspective of capital markets or if it should be considered as economic, social, and ecological material information for all stakeholders.
Keywords: Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Integrated Reporting (IR), Sustainability Accounting Standard Board (SASB), Climate Disclosure Project (CDP), Climate Disclosure Standard Board (CDSB), Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD), Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB)