Can nonfinancial reporting promote real sustainability in organizations?

Nonfinancial Reporting and Real Sustainable Change–Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

Rüdiger Hahn, Daniel Reimsbach & Christopher Wickert
Heinrich-Heine University Düsseldorf / Radboud University Nijmegen / Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The relationship between nonfinancial reporting and real sustainable change within and beyond
organizations is fraught with complication. Furthermore, all facets of the relationship have not
been examined equally. The contributions of this special issue made substantive progress in
this regard and draw our focus to several remaining complications—in particular, the societal
impacts of nonfinancial reporting. With this introduction, we seek to move the conversation
forward by proposing a framework that disentangles the linkages between nonfinancial
reporting and real sustainable change at multiple levels of analysis. We highlight the distinction
between sustainability-related outputs and outcomes that typically materialize at the firm level,
and eventually lead to sustainable impact at the societal level. Future research should advance
this distinction and scrutinize the impact of real sustainable change beyond firm-level outputs,
study the organizational change processes from antecedents to impacts, and examine the
interrelationships between different instruments to foster real sustainable change.

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