The impact of stakeholders’ influence on transparency of sustainability report in Sweden within the GRI framework : A quantitative study

University essay from Umeå universitet/Företagsekonomi; Umeå universitet/Företagsekonomi

Abstract: For the last two decades, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has gained more and more attention since organisations have realised that their long-term success is increasingly depending on social and environmental contributions. In reaction to pressure expressed by stakeholders, entities are trying to meet the interest of internal and external stakeholders by issuing a large proportion of sustainability information in documents called sustainability reports. Those reports aim to communicate an organisation’s progress and efforts regarding its sustainability actions to its stakeholders. However, sustainability reporting (SR) is mainly based on a voluntary basis as there are no real criteria indicating how to proceed with producing a transparent sustainability report. The transparency concept is a measure of the quality of CSR communication which enhances the relationships between stakeholders and their corresponding entities. A popular framework, named the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), represents a response to this lack of criteria by providing comprehensive guidelines which are often updated with the aim of improving SRs. Previous literature has proven that stakeholder groups impact the level of transparency of SR on a worldwide basis. We aim to contribute to the literature by doing a smaller scale research based on Swedish organisations and by answering the following research question: What is the impact of stakeholders’ pressure on the transparency of sustainability reports within the GRI framework in Sweden? The primary purpose of this master thesis is to examine how groups of stakeholders such as employees, customers, shareholders and environment can influence the degree of SR transparency. Additionally, our sub-purpose is to analyse the significance of the organisation quotation and the legal entity status such as non-profit organisation, private company, public institution or state-owned company. The transparency aspect is reflected through factors such as the adherence level to the GRI framework, the existence of an external assurance to the report and the amount of certification with other frameworks. Based on a sample of 141 Swedish organisations, provided by the GRI framework we conducted a quantitative study adopting a linear regression analysis. The results led us not to reject our four null hypotheses and the difference between each stakeholders’ impact on the SR transparency cannot be explained by our statistical model. However, our sub-purpose is partly fulfilled as we demonstrated a positive relationship between state-owned companies and their level of transparency. Scholars can be now aware that the model we used was relevant in a global context but was not in a Swedish one.

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