Making sustainability reporting trustworthy : a case study of the service corporation LRF Konsult

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Economics

Abstract: Corporations have a major role in society for example when it comes to economic development. Over the past decades, stakeholders have begun to demand corporations to take increased responsibility for their business and practice regarding sustainability issues. This development can be described as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). By the end of 2016, the Swedish government introduced a new ordinance, obliging larger corporations regardless of branch, to create a sustainability report. The sustainability report is expected to increase transparency and give stakeholders an opportunity to evaluate the sustainability efforts of each corporation. Previously, service corporations have not been taking sustainability reporting into account extensively. However, due to the new ordinance, service corporations can no longer overlook sustainability reporting. The ordinance is designed to suit all types of businesses. Because of this, there is scope for interpretation and uncertainty regarding the report’s design and content. Additionally, sustainability reporting is criticised by stakeholders. They are sceptical since they do not trust corporations to actually perform the CSR-activities they claim to conduct. Few studies have addressed the development of sustainability reporting in service corporations. This study aims to investigate the development of trustworthy sustainability reporting in a Swedish service corporation. To be able to fulfil the aim of this study, a case study of the service corporation LRF Konsult has been conducted. Sustainability reporting is a new challenge for LRF Konsult, and this study is focusing on the initial phase in developing trustworthy sustainability reporting. The empirical results have been collected through five semi-structured interviews, conducted with individuals of distinct positions within LRF Konsult. The questions of the interviews were based on a theoretical framework addressing sustainability reporting, stakeholder theory and CSR-communication strategies. This study identifies four primary objectives for sustainability reporting made by a service corporation; meet and satisfy stakeholders' demands, be perceived as an attractive employer, educate and motivate employees and maintain legitimacy. Thus, stakeholders are an indispensable part to consider regarding the development of sustainability reporting. This case study also shows that the most relevant stakeholders to involve, when it comes to sustainability reporting, are the employees, the customers and the owner. They are relevant since they both influence and are directly affected by corporations’ sustainability reporting. When involving relevant stakeholders through communication, trustworthiness can be achieved. This study implies that both one-way and two-way communication strategies are useful when involving stakeholders in sustainability reporting.

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