Mind the Gap: A characterisation of UK corporate sustainability through reporting by FTSE 100 listed companies
Sammanfattning: As a de facto leader in corporate governance and sustainability reporting (SR), this study provides a thorough and comprehensive characterisation of SR among the UK’s leading companies. A content analysis was undertaken of key corporate communications across a sample of 66 constituents listed on the London/ Financial Times Stock Exchange (FTSE) 100 index. Through a systematic analytical framework made up of sustainability/ corporate responsibility (S/CR) indicators, and additional performance variables, the ‘20/20+’ model allocated up to 40 points to each company. This approach represented a distinctive scoring model to benchmark company SR quality by illustrating a gap between what companies say they will do on sustainability issues (talk) and what they have actually done (walk). The S/CR indicators helped reflect the focus of current disclosures, the diffusion of best practices recognised in SR literature, give insight into how integrated sustainability activities appear to be to core company operations and show how aligned activities appear to be with societal goals as defined by the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The research finds on aggregate, a clear negative gap between ‘talk’ and ‘walk’, with only handful of companies appearing to ‘walk the talk’. In addition to minding the gap, the study also revealed a significant variation in sustainability practices overall. Common themes characterising UK SR were also identified. These include the underutilisation of disclosure enhancing tools, the fragmentation and omission of relevant information as well as a tendency to be more descriptive than measurable. The findings have implications for UK policy-makers, business organisations and researchers; the current reliance on voluntary disclosures and third-parties is failing to diffuse best practices, which not only improve sustainability but offer strategic benefits to companies.
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