A comparative analysis of sustainability reporting in South Africa and Australia

Phalafala, Madikana Beauty
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The issues of sustainability reporting are important on a global level, with business as a whole facing different market pressures to be socially responsible and to report on socially responsible practices. It has thus become routine practice to report social and environmental impacts along with financial results. A comparative study of two countries can give an overview of the state of sustainability reporting in different parts of the world that seem geographically and culturally distant, but are also the marketplace for the same global companies. The focus of the study was on examining how two quite different countries, Australia – a Western market economy - and South Africa – a country that has made the transition to an emerging market despite its unique socio-political history - are addressing sustainability reporting issues. High-environmental-impact companies are more likely to disclose information about their environmental impacts than companies in other industries. There is thus a significant relationship between the industries with the most polluting potential and a high level of disclosure. A sample of three sectors was selected (mining, energy and materials). Annual reports, considered to be the most important tool for stakeholder communication, were examined using content analysis in order to compare sustainability reporting practices in these sectors. The main findings from the study were that Australian companies in the three sectors, despite showing an improvement over the years, lagged behind in the extent of sustainability reporting relative to their South African counterparts. Furthermore, the companies across the industries that report according to the Global Reporting Initiative are fewer in Australia than in South Africa. It also emerged that businesses from different countries vary significantly in the extent to which they report on sustainability issues, and on the sustainability issues that they choose to emphasise in their reports.
MBA thesis - WBS
Sustainability reporting