The Future of the Global Reporting Initiative

Call for papers for: Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

The submissions window will open on 30 June 2021
 

Guest Editors

  • Dr Mercedes Luque-Vílchez, Assistant Professor in Accounting, University of Cordoba, Spain ([email protected])
  • Dr Michela Cordazzo, Associate Professor of Financial Accounting, Ca' Foscari University of Venice, ([email protected])
  • Professor Gunnar Rimmel, Henley Business School ([email protected])
  • Professor Carol Tilt, University of South Australia ([email protected])


Background

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) provides one of the most widely used and cited sustainability standards globally (KPMG, 2020). Since the launch of the GRI two decades ago, it has worked on the development of a conceptual framework to provide guidelines for firms to elaborate sustainability reports. This ongoing effort has enabled GRI in championing the institutional field of sustainability reporting. As a result, some of the largest corporations across the world are engaged on accountability practices and this has inspired much more organisations to start taking steps in the same direction. The GRI conceptual framework is designed based on multi-stakeholder insights, one reason that it is seen as appropriate for a broad audience (KPMG, 2020). However, with the increasing discourse on the need for convergence of non-financial reporting frameworks (Accountancy Europe, 2020; Impact Management Project, 2020; World Economic Forum, 2020) and the related recent IFRS Foundation Consultation Paper on Sustainability Reporting (hereafter Consultation Paper) suggesting the need for a single sustainability standard-setting body, the role and scope that organisations like GRI will continue to play is an important question.

Almost simultaneously, the European Commission (EC) has asked the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG) to elaborate on possible EU sustainability reporting standards and for possible changes to EFRAG's governance and funding if it were to become the EU sustainability reporting standard setter. EFRAG’s reports to the EC highlight overarching principles to support an inclusive range of stakeholders and to build on initiatives, like GRI, that have similar goals.

The EC has also issued the non-financial reporting Directive (NFRD) that attempts to respond to government pressure and stakeholders’ demand on firms’ social responsibility disclosure (European Union, 2014). The Directive enforces a radical shift from voluntary to mandatory disclosure of non-financial information. Larger European companies are required to implement the new non-financial reporting system by using non-financial reporting frameworks that include, inter alia, GRI. Investors and capital market regulators are key stakeholders in using non-financial information, as the Directive allows them to take responsible investment decisions and to improve the transparency in capital markets. GRI supports the dialogue between investors, capital market regulators and companies by improving their understanding of, and need for, sustainability reporting.

Further, if the move to a single body occurs, then understanding what GRI has achieved and lessons learned from GRI’s experiences are crucial. Nevertheless, these considerations are not reflected in the call for the IFRS Foundation to establish a Sustainability Standards Board alongside the IASB. Thus, the Consultation Paper and the IFRS announcement of their strategic direction (IFRS, 2021) prioritise a Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) over GRI, ignoring the fact that the GRI’s response to the consultation has world-wide acceptance. In doing so, IFRS is promoting sustainability reporting as a tool for disclosing information for investors, and not the reporting of the information for the whole of society (Adams and Cho, 2020; Adams and Abhayawansa, 2021). As could be expected, the IFRS's priorities have been supported by management investment companies such as BlackRock who “consider SASB a globally relevant standard for reporting to investors because it is focused on achieving disclosure that is financially material, decision-useful, cost-effective, industry-specific, evidence-based and informed by market practitioners” (BlackRock, 2020, p.5).

The aim of this special issue

Our aim is to contribute to the literature on the historic and future role of GRI in responding to stakeholder demand for enhanced ESG information, the contributions GRI has made to the sustainability reporting space and the practice of sustainability reporting. In doing so, we aim to foster debate on how the efforts should focus on working with the different existing standards, particularly with GRI in conjunction with others standards (International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), or the SASB) which, unlike the GRI, are more focused on reporting to investors and financial stakeholders (see, for example, Greenstone, 2014; Adams and Abhayawansa, 2021) to achieve a globally accepted comprehensive corporate reporting system so that investors have information on sustainable development impacts.

Suggested topics

We welcome the submission of empirical, conceptual and critical work which explores, but is not restricted to, the following topics: 

  • Critical reflections on what GRI has achieved as the first player in the sustainability reporting space.
  • Why did various other bodies set up as standard/framework setters given GRI’s popularity with reporters?
  • What are the challenges GRI faces in the imminent process of harmonisation of non-financial reporting?
  • What could be the consequences for GRI if SASB is prioritised?
  • What are the potential benefits and challenges to work on the basis of GRI for a single sustainability standard-setting body?
  • Can GRI provide an overarching conceptual framework for potential standards?
  • What has GRI achieved and what are the lessons learned from GRI’s experiences?
  •  What motivates managers’ and stakeholders’ interest in GRI? Has it always been like this and is this likely to change?
  • If GRI standards were recognised as globally accepted reporting standards, what could be the reaction of investors and regulators in the capital markets?

We are also open to other topics which fit the underlying general theme of this special issue.

Submission and review process

  • All submissions should be made through the Emerald Editorial System for Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal using https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/sampj
  • The submission deadline for receipt of papers is 31 January 2022. Papers will not be considered for the special issue if they are submitted after this date. 
  • Submissions must adhere to the format and style guidelines of the Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal (https://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/journal/sampj#author-guidelines).
  • Submissions will be subject to an initial screening by the Guest Co-editors of the special issue and papers which fall outside the scope of the special issue or which are considered unlikely to be suitable for the special issue will be desk rejected. The remaining papers will then be subject to double-blind refereeing. There is no submission fee. All accepted papers must have originality in their contributions and have attained the high standards of the Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal. The Editors of the Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal will oversee the final set of accepted papers prior to publication.
  • The guest editors welcome enquiries from those who are interested in submitting. All papers will be reviewed in accordance with the normal processes of Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal. It is anticipated that this special issue will be published in 2023. Any queries about the special issue should be directed to the guest editors.

Submitting and Schedules

  • Papers submitted to the special issue will undergo a typical double-blind review process
  • Submissions to the journal must be made using ScholarOne Manuscripts, the online submission and peer review system.
  • The papers should be between 5000 and 10000 words (including references). 
  • Author guidelines can be found on the journal's page.
  • The submissions window opens on 30 June 2021. The submission link will be available on this website on this date.
  • The submission deadline is 31 January 2022.
     

References

Accountancy Europe (2020). Follow-up paper: Interconnected standards setting for corporate reporting https://www.accountancyeurope.eu/wp-content/uploads/200615-Follow-up-paper-Interconnected-standard-setting.pdf

Adams, C.A. and Abhayawansa, S. (2021). Connecting the COVID-19 pandemic, environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing and calls for ‘harmonisation’ of sustainability reporting, Critical Perspectives on Accounting. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpa.2021.102309

Adams, C. and Cho, C. (2020). Sustainable development is too important for self-interest and political posturing. https://drcaroladams.net/sustainable-development-is-too-important-for-self-interest-and-political-posturing

BlackRock (2020). Response to the IFRS Consultation Paper on Sustainability Reporting https://www.blackrock.com/corporate/literature/publication/ifrsf-consultation-sustainability-reporting-123020.pdf

European Union (2014), Directive as regards disclosure of non-financial and diversity information by certain large undertakings and groups, 2014/95/EU, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32014L0095&from=EN

Greenstone (2014). Choosing the right Non-Financial Reporting Framework: A Closer Look at the Top 7. London, UK: Greenstone.

IFRS (2021). IFRS Foundation Trustees announce strategic direction and further steps based on feedback to sustainability reporting consultation. https://www.ifrs.org/news-and-events/2021/03/trustees-announce-strategic-direction-based-on-feedback-to-sustainability-reporting-consultation/

Impact Management Project (2020), Statement of Intent to Work Together Towards Comprehensive Corporate Reporting (Carbon Disclosure Project, Climate Disclosure Standards Board, the Global Reporting Initiative, the International Integrated Reporting Council, and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board).

KPMG (2020). KPMG International survey of corporate responsibility reporting. Amsterdam: KPMG International.

World Economic Forum (2020). Toward Common Metrics and Consistent Reporting of Sustainable Value Creation (World Economic Forum: Geneva) http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_IBC_ESG_Metrics_Discussion_Paper.pdf