The Sustainable Development Goals: The Missing Piece of the Reporting Puzzle?

Tilde S√łgaard Melander

Student thesis: Master thesis


The number of companies reporting on their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts has increased over the years. Nevertheless, the quality of the reports has not increased with it according to a survey from the consultancy firm KPMG in 2015. The introduction of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) could solve this by providing a common reference point and a standardised corporate reporting framework. Therefore, this thesis examines whether the introduction of the SDGs had an effect on the inter-firm comparability and how institutional isomorphism explains the reporting patters. In answering the research question, an analysis of inter-firm comparability was conducted on reports from the years before and after the introduction of the SDGs. In order to avoid distortion of the results from sector and regional differences, the reports of six European banks were chosen for the analysis. In addition, the theoretical concept of isomorphism as coined by DiMaggio and Powell (1983) structured the discussion, which also included an interview with a CSR expert. The analysis revealed that the introduction of the SDGs had no effect on the inter-firm comparability on the selected CSR reports for both reporting years. Inter-firm comparability is not present, as the majority of banks either do not report the required information or do not report at all. In explaining the reporting pattern of the banks, the European Union with its new Directive on the reporting on non-financial information and the investors of the banks were considered to be the source of coercive pressures. The two sources of normative pressures were found to be the effect of national cultures and the exclusion of financial employees in the report preparation processes. The latter is considered to be the main reason for the lack of good quality CSR data. In terms of mimetic pressures, the goal ambiguity of the SDGs and the lack of guidelines are considered to be the main sources of this type of pressures to the convergence of CSR reports.

EducationsMSc in Accounting, Strategy and Control, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2018
Number of pages199
SupervisorsMia Kaspersen