Heading towards sustainability reporting: a pilot study into the progress of embracing the global reporting initiative in the United Kingdom

In the past decade much has been written on the need to develop social, ethical and environmentally responsible performance reporting frameworks that engage with all organisational stakeholders. The theoretical development of these frameworks has spanned nearly a century culminating in the release in 2000 of voluntary guidelines developed by the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies and the United Nations Environment Programme through the offices of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). The release of the sustainability reporting guidelines perhaps could not have been more inopportune insofar as it coincided with a concerted effort on the part of the accounting regulators toward global harmonisation of financial reporting standards. This paper reports the findings of a survey of Company Secretaries and company provided information examining the extent to which these guidelines have been adopted by the leading public companies in the United Kingdom. The findings suggest limited acceptance and in the resource‐constrained environment of the twenty‐first century business implementation of mandatory requirements are given priority. Further research needs to be conducted to determine whether the GRI has a role to play in future stakeholder engagement.