- sustainability; sustainability reporting; corporate responsibility
The current state of sustainability reporting lacks useful information for decision-making. Specifically, this paper examines the sustainability report of a major multinational organization from the perspective of accounting and the qualities of information as defined by the U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board and the Global Reporting Initiative. Fifty-eight graduate accounting students were assigned an exercise that involved analyzing Wal-Mart’s 2013 Corporate Social Responsibility report within the context of the GRI’s Principles of Quality Reporting. The results indicated that the Report failed to provide useful information for stakeholders and was more of an instrument of public relations. While the Report failed to meet many of the GRI’s Principles, the students believed the most serious flaw was the absence of cost and segment information. Without mandates the only viable mechanism to improve sustainability reports is for GRI to certify those reports that strictly adhere to the Principles of Quality Reporting.