Associate Professor Gill North

Corporate sustainability practices and regulation: Where are we & where are we headed?

Public corporations are increasingly acknowledging their role in society and the need to communicate and engage broadly with various stakeholders, including the general public. This broader focus is evidenced by sustainability disclosures in the form of management discussion and analysis, standalone sustainability reports and integrated reports. The paper reviews the developing corporate sustainability frameworks. It discusses the use of soft and hard law rules, the disclosure delivery mechanisms, and the models developed by the Global Reporting Initiative and the International Integrated Reporting Council. It considers the intended audience of sustainability disclosures, the requirement and benefits of mandatory reporting regimes, and the design of a best practice regulatory structure. It concludes that listed corporations should establish a normative culture of continuous disclosure and engagement around societal impact issues such as sustainability. It suggests that best practice sustainability frameworks require strong ongoing support from corporations, investors, stakeholders, policy makers, regulators, and the public and should be driven by clear objectives and principles that are consistently applied. It notes that maintaining public confidence and trust in financial markets is a never ending journey.