Toward a new mandatory sustainability reporting landscape in Europe: Challenges and opportunities


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The transition from voluntary to mandatory sustainability reporting practices is a pivotal moment, drawing increased attention from academics, practitioners, and regulators. In Europe, the journey towards mandatory sustainability reporting began with the introduction of "soft obligations" in 2003 (Directive 2003/51/EC) and later evolved into the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) in 2014. The NFRD mandated large public interest entities to disclose information on environmental, social, employee-related, diversity, human rights, bribery, and anti-corruption matters starting from the fiscal year 2017 (EU, 2014).

Despite these efforts, dissatisfaction and distrust emerged in the initial years post-NFRD implementation. Studies revealed criticisms around key issues like unclear materiality definition (e.g. Jeffery, 2017), the abuse of the "comply or explain" principle (e.g. Pizzi et al., 2020; Venturelli et al., 2020), inconsistent reporting frameworks (e.g. Szabó and Sørensen, 2015), the absence of mandatory assurance (e.g. La Torre et al., 2018), and flexibility granted to Member States for state-specific requirements on companies (Mio et al., 2021; Nicolò et al., 2022).

In response, the European Commission (EC) initiated a public consultation in 2020 to collect stakeholders’ views on possible revisions to the NFRD. Stakeholders highlighted relevance, comparability, and reliability issues, urging an expanded scope of the NFRD to include companies of all sizes. The need for robust audit requirements, increased information digitalisation, and transparent materiality assessment processes also surfaced (EC, 2020).

As part of the European Green Deal, the EC proposed a new Corporate Sustainable Reporting Directive (CSRD) in April 2021, amending the NFRD. The CSRD addressed previous shortcomings by extending reporting requirements to all large and listed small and medium-sized companies (SMEs), emphasising the double materiality principle, requiring compliance with new European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS), introducing sustainability information assurance, and imposing to include sustainability information in the management report (EU, 2022).

The CSRD came into force on January 5, 2023. Simultaneously, the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG) worked on EU ESRS based on the double materiality principle. The EC adopted the final draft of ESRS on July 31, 2023. It includes two cross-cutting standards that define general principles and disclosure requirements and ten sector-agnostic topical standards that address environmental, social and governance matters (EC, 2023).

In parallel, under several pressures from the business community, the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation entered the sustainability reporting landscape, establishing the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB). ISSB's strategic focus includes information materiality for investors, prioritising climate-related reporting, building on existing frameworks, such as the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), and engaging with standard-setters from key jurisdictions (IFRS Foundation, 2021). The ISSB published two exposure drafts in March 2022, focused on general requirements for disclosure of sustainability-related financial information and climate-related disclosures. 

Accounting literature’s history has demonstrated that the academic voice is essential in providing insight to support policymakers' and standard-setters' decisions. However, despite the broad debate surrounding the NFRD's introduction in 2014, research on this new sustainability reporting landscape is still in its infancy. 

Therefore, against this background, this special issue intends to stimulate scholars and practitioners to enrich the debate concerning the ongoing sustainability reporting standard-setting process.


List of topic areas

The Special Issue will welcome theoretical and empirical studies based on quantitative and qualitative methods that provide valuable insights into the consequences of the new sustainability reporting landscape on academic, practical, and social domains. Insightful essay papers from practitioners will also be welcome.
Research questions and arguments addressed by potential contributions to this Special Issue could include, but are not restricted to, the following topics:

  • Critical reflections on the role played by key institutional players in sustainability reporting standard-setting:
  • The consequences of CSRD and mandatory sustainability reporting standards on sustainability reporting practices;
  • The impact of CSRD and mandatory sustainability reporting standards on auditing and assurance processes;
  • Introduction of CSRD and mandatory sustainability reporting standards in the EU: differences among EU member states;
  • Challenges and opportunities of the introduction of CSRD and mandatory sustainability reporting standards for report preparers;
  • Expanding new sustainability reporting regulations to small and medium enterprises. Are they ready for the change?; 
  • The dichotomy between EC/EFRAG and ISSB: tensions or opportunity for convergence?;
  • Applying double materiality principle: implications for report preparers and users;
  • The role of CSRD in stimulating organisational change;
  • The role of CSRD in enabling contribution toward SDGs;
  • Digitalisation and new sustainability reporting requirements;
  • The place of integrated reporting in the future sustainability reporting landscape;
  • The importance of the management report as a source of sustainability-related information;
  • How professional organisations and academia will change their educational content to include the new sustainability reporting requirements?


Guest Editors

Giuseppe Nicolò, 
University of Salerno, Italy, 
[email protected]

Joanna Krasodomska, 
Krakow University of Economics, Poland, 
[email protected] 

Adriana Tiron-Tudor, 
Babes-Bolyai University, Romania, 
[email protected]  

Francisco Javier Andrades Pena, 
University of Cadiz, Spain, 
[email protected]


Submissions Information

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available by clicking the button below.
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Author guidelines must be strictly followed.
Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to “Please select the issue you are submitting to”. 
Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.


Key Deadlines

Opening date for manuscripts submissions: 31 March 2024
Closing date for manuscripts submission: 31 October 2024