The current sustainability reporting practices in Finnish real estate companies

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Insinööritieteiden korkeakoulu | Master's thesis
Creative Sustainability in Real Estate
Degree programme
Master’s Degree Programme in Real Estate Economics
The aim of this research is to investigate the content and quality of the sustainability reports published by Finnish real estate companies. To achieve this aim, the researcher has developed an integrated multiple qualitative research method, including content analysis and semi-structured interviews. Content analysis applied to the 2013 annual reports, 2014 Q2 interim reports, website contents and building presentations of eight sampled companies from which three are investment and five are construction organisations. The coding system of content analysis is defined based on CRESS GRI G4 guidelines in which each code is required to be reported in three types of information: 1. aims and values, 2. actions to achieve the defined aims, and 3. performance data. The results revealed that the level of content and quality of sustainability reports is relatively moderate. Key challenges for companies are as follows: providing quantitative performance data, engaging stakeholders in the reporting process and considering the impacts of a company during supply chain. This study suggests the series of actions to overcome some shortcoming of the reports. With regard to the problem engaging stakeholders in the process of reporting, the following initiatives help, including conducting pervasive surveys; providing updated sustainability information on the company's website; as well as creating forums to increase the interaction between the stakeholders. To overcome the lack of coverage of the supply chain process in sustainability reporting, companies should define the criteria for sustainable supply chain, communicate it with their partners, and monitor their actions to identify any failures and report the results publicly. To smooth the process, companies can benchmark the best practices from across the sector. The semi-structured interviews have been conducted with four members from three investment companies in order to gain deep insight into the phenomenon. Interviews revealed the motivations that encourage the real estate companies to publish sustainability reports, such as an increased credibility and popularity, economic opportunities and competitive advantage. In addition, it enables companies to revise their performance annually and improve their strategy if needed. The findings of this research complement those of prior studies, however, show further improvements in the quality of sustainability reporting by the Finnish real estate companies. The present research outcomes have several implications for further improvements in the quality and content of the sustainability reports. At minimum, it contributes to the ongoing dialogue regarding the systematic sustainability reports published by real estate companies in Finland.
Viitanen, Kauko
Thesis advisor
Toivonen, Saija
Yrjänä, Laura
systematic sustainability reporting, publicly listed Finnish real estate companies, content analysis, semi-structured interviews, content and quality, CRESS GRI G4
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