This study investigates factors affecting the credibility of sustainability reporting. Potential factors were first identified from prior studies and then refined through semi-structured interviews with sustainability reporting stakeholders including users, preparers, assurance providers and standard-setters. From this we construct a conceptual framework containing 26 variables that potentially influence credibility assessments of sustainability reports. This large set of variables is then evaluated by using a questionnaire survey of different stakeholder groups. The responses reveal that some source credibility variables (trustworthiness, track record and management expertise), assurance-related variables, and message characteristics (materiality and completeness of sustainability disclosures) are perceived by different stakeholder groups as particularly important to the credibility assessment, with source credibility factors dominating the rankings. An exploratory factor analysis shows that perceptions coalesce on four factors that are concerned with assurance and accountability, source (management) characteristics, message characteristics, and standards & ratings, with the structure of first two being dominated by the variables ranked as most important. The rank analysis also reveals significant differences between users and preparers in the ordering of influential credibility factors, and this is further supported by the significant differences between users’ and preparers’ mean scores for the ‘assurance and accountability’ and ‘source (management) characteristics’ factors.
- Corporate social responsibility
- Sustainability reporting