March 1, 2017
Purpose The purpose of this research is to analyze the perceptions of stakeholders – more specifically, socially responsible investment (SRI) practitioners – of the quality of sustainability reports using the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) framework. Design/methodology/approach This paper is based on 33 semi-structured interviews carried out with different stakeholders and experts (e.g. consultants, fund managers, analysts, consultants) in the field of SRI in Canada. Findings The perceptions of SRI practitioners shed more light on the elastic and uncertain application of the GRI principles in determining the quality of sustainability reports. Their perceptions tend to support the argument that sustainability reports reflect the impression management strategies used by companies to highlight the positive aspects of their sustainability performance and to obfuscate negative outcomes. Originality/value First, undertake empirical research on stakeholders’ perceptions – which have been largely overlooked – of the quality of sustainability reports. Second, shed new light on the impression management strategies used in sustainability reporting. Third, show the reflexivity and the degree of skepticism of practitioners with regard to the reliability of information on sustainability performance.