Corporate sustainability reporting in the eyes of the employees - A case study of Finnish and Estonian branches of an expert organization

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School of Business | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Global Management
OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY The European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS) are binding sustainability reporting regulations for qualifying organizations in the European Union. As the ESRS begin to apply from January 2024 onwards, understanding the reporting process under these new regulations is extremely important for businesses of all sizes. Therefore, the primary objective of this study is to analyze the sustainability reporting process under the ESRS. Special attention is given to the most significant new criterion of the ESRS, the materiality process, which makes it mandatory for organizations to involve their stakeholders when determining which sustainability topics to report on. The empirical part of this study focuses on the materiality process by examining which sustainability topics the employees of an expert organization would want their organization to report on. DATA AND METHODOLOGY The literature review of this study utilizes previous research about corporate sustainability and sustainability reporting. The empirical part is conducted in collaboration with a company by using a case study method and utilizing both quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative data was collected from Finland and Estonia, while the qualitative data was collected only from Finland. The quantitative survey had 325 respondents from different departments of the case company, while the qualitative interviews were conducted with five people from one department of the Finnish branch. All empirical data was collected between May and July, 2022. MAIN FINDINGS The findings highlight that the sustainability reporting process is influenced by societal and organizational sustainability contexts. Although organizations use the same reporting method under the ESRS, the content of their reports can differ because the materiality process with the stakeholders, which determines the topics to report on, is always organization-specific. As an example of the contextuality, the empirical research revealed that the sustainability topics with recent issues in the organization or on the societal level were important for the employees of the case organization, while topics with possibly bigger absolute impacts but no recent issues were not considered as important. Additionally, sustainability topics where the organization has a big impact to the stakeholder in question were considered more important than topics where the organization has a smaller impact – in the case organization e.g. employee well-being (important), environment (unimportant).
Thesis advisor
Saittakari, Iiris
sustainability, ESRS, GRI, materiality process, corporate sustainability reporting, CSRD, stakeholder, expert organization
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