Sustainability reporting: from exceptional to mainstream

Impact case of the month: “Impact on the mainstreaming of corporate sustainability reporting”

March 8 2023

Until a few years ago, corporate transparency about their activities and their impact on society and the environment was still exceptional and non-committal. However, sustainability reporting is now for many companies a mandatory part of accounting for what they do, and has become common good. René Orij, who recently was appointed as full professor at Nyenrode Business Universiteit, has conducted important research in this area.

Through Orij's efforts, sustainability reporting has developed into a mature area of research, and is on its way to becoming a regular part of accounting curricula. Research has influenced in several ways the transformation to ‘mainstream’ corporate sustainability reporting. Orij: “Research findings led to a better understanding of reporting processes and what the added value is for companies to report on sustainability. Sustainability reporting has now been institutionalized and there is a full-fledged system of frameworks and laws, such as the EU Directive on Corporate Sustainability Reporting (CSRD) for example, that has been adopted late last year.”


Among other things, Orij examined how companies are coping with the shift from voluntary to mandatory reporting. “We found that some CEOs and boards of directors sometimes influence sustainability reporting opportunistically,” Orij says. “Within the previous set of reporting requirements for large companies, there was a lot of room for discretionary interpretation in preparing sustainability reports. This gives room for greenwashing. These findings highlight the need to further strengthen regulation, such as with the CSRD.”

Research and education

Further regulation, according to Orij, also requires more research: “New research must be set up to determine the effects of the new regulation.” In doing so, Orij emphasizes that education must also be directly linked to this. “The Committee on Accountancy Education Learning Outcomes (CEA) supports embedding the theme of sustainability more firmly in the curricula of accountancy education. At Nyenrode, we are currently working on strengthening the curriculum in the area of ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance). These are important developments, because these days we increasingly hear 'ESG is here to stay'.”


March 8 2023

An impact case includes a research portfolio around a central theme, focusing on the reach and impact of that research. The impact cases are easy to read for a broad audience, they demonstrate how Nyenrode is strengthening its connection to practice and how faculty members are finding practical solutions to relevant and current challenges in practice.

The impact cases are divided into the categories Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Stewardship, and Educational Innovation.

All cases can be found here.

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