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Australian firms lead in environmental disclosures - latest research

19 Sep 2013

Australian companies are leaders in environmental reporting against the GRI reporting index while large multi-national firms have the highest levels of sustainability disclosure, according to research undertaken by CPA Australia and the University of Sydney Business School.

The results of the research, which looked at the reporting of non-financial information by the top 40 companies in Australia, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom, have been published by CPA Australia in a report titled 'Sustainability Reporting: practices, performance and potential'.

The performance of the companies was measured against Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) reporting guidelines by Professor Stewart Jones, Associate Professor Geoff frost and Dr Cornelia Beck from the Business School's Discipline of Accounting.

The GRI is a United Nations backed non-profit organization that promotes economic sustainability through reporting guidelines which have been adopted by more than 4,000 corporate, government and non-government organisations.

The research found that Australian companies ranked highly in relation to environmental reporting while British companies produce more diverse sustainability information across a wider range of GRI indicators.

Reporting linked to human rights, society and product responsibility was found to be poor across all companies studied.

CPA Australia Chief Executive, Alex Malley, said the report came at a crucial stage in the development of corporate and business reporting.

"This report improves our understanding of the type of non-financial information that is being produced already and the nature of the companies that are moving towards greater transparency," Mr Malley said. "Increasingly, investors want information that goes beyond the bottom line and tells them something about the environmental, sustainability, human rights and community practices of the business."

Mr Malley added that the GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines are now widely acknowledged as the key framework for sustainability reporting by companies around the world and that this report would inform both the ways they are applied and further refined.

The Business School recently established a cross disciplinary Balanced Enterprise Research Network to provide insights into ways that business can better balance economic, social and environmental concerns while creating value for a wide range of stakeholders.

A summary of the findings can be found on the CPA website.