Special issue on Standard-Setting of Sustainability Reporting – Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

Posted by ARC Commitee - Nov 28, 2020

Special issue on Standard-Setting of Sustainability Reporting


Guest Editors:

Subhash Abhayawansa, Associate Professor in Accounting, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia (sabhayawansa@swin.edu.au)

Mark Aleksanyan, Senior Lecturer in Accounting and Finance, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom (Mark.Aleksanyan@glasgow.ac.uk)

Ioannis Tsalavoutas, Professor of Accounting, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom (Ioannis.Tsalavoutas@glasgow.ac.uk)



During the recent past, there has been an intensifying discourse on the regulatory work needed to converge and consolidate reporting frameworks for non-financial reporting (Accountancy Europe, 2020; Impact Management Project, 2020; World Economic Forum, 2020). Against this backdrop, the recent IFRS Foundation Consultation Paper on Sustainability Reporting (hereafter Consultation Paper) puts forward an agenda to create a sustainability standard-setting body with the aim of reducing complexity and achieving comparability in sustainability reporting. Indeed, there is overwhelming support from national and transnational regulators (e.g., IFAC) and professional accounting bodies for the IFRS Foundation to extend its ambit to sustainability reporting.

It is envisaged that the new standard setter will rationalise the currently fragmented ecosystem of non-financial reporting standards and work with existing initiatives and build upon their work. The announcement comes at a time where the demand for information on companies’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices have become equally, if not more, important as financial information, sustainable investing has reached new records, and performance of ESG investment funds has soared (SEC Investor Advisory Committee, 2020). After evaluating the perspective of capital market participants, the United State Securities and Exchange Commission Investor Advisory Committee (2020, p.2)concluded that “the use of ESG-related disclosures has gone from a fringe concept to a mainstream, global investment and geopolitical priority”. The timing of the Consultation Paper also coincides with the move by regulators in New Zealand and the U.K. to mandate climate-related disclosures (Her Majesty’s Treasury, 2020; Shaw, 2020).

Providers of ESG ratings, rankings and indices and ESG funds are supportive of a global system of standards as it could facilitate the provision of consistent, comparable, reliable and assurable non-financial information. For some time, they have been calling for a set of standards, almost like rules, that specifies metrics and disclosures. However, not everyone who supports alignment, harmonisation, or convergence among existing frameworks and standards sees the Consultation Paper as providing the ideal solution, but to be far from it. The response by the accounting professors and editors of accounting journals to the Consultation Paper[1] (and the reports by Accountancy Europe and the World Economic Forum that informs it) highlights that the Trustees of the IFRS Foundation had ignored the extensive body of research on sustainability accounting and reporting which contradicts or refutes assertions made in the Consultation Paper. The response by the Editor-in-Chief of Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Professor Carol Adams, criticises the Consultation Paper for promoting financial materiality and focusing only on financial capital providers.

The aim of this special issue is to contribute to the debate on the need for a single set of globally accepted sustainability standards and, if needed, whether IFRS Foundation is the best candidate to set up a sustainability standard-setting body, what should the scope of those standards and underlying assumptions be and what should (or shouldn’t) they include. It is also important to understand what roles the existing sustainability and integrated reporting organisations (e.g., Carbon Disclosure Project, Climate Disclosure Standards Board, Global Reporting Initiative, International Integrated Reporting Council, Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, Task Force for Climate-Related Financial Disclosure) should play to respond to stakeholder demand for enhanced ESG information and contribute to a new comprehensive corporate reporting system (whether or not consistent with the Consultation Paper) as stated in the “Statement of Intent to Work Together Towards Comprehensive Corporate Reporting” (Impact Management Project, 2020).

To some extent, the current developments in the sustainability reporting standard-setting are reminiscent of the debates and discussion on the harmonisation of financial reporting standards in EU member states that occurred in the 1990s. They eventually led to the establishment of the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), the mandatory implementation of IFRS standards for consolidated financial statements in the EU and more widely for financial periods starting on or after 2005, and gradually those standards being mandated or permitted in more than 140 countries. It is timely to revisit the debate on harmonisation of financial reporting, while acknowledging that sustainability reporting harmonisation will also have different challenges, to enrich the current debate and suggest policy alternatives.


Suggested topics

We welcome the submission of empirical, conceptual and critical work which explores, but not restricted to, the following topics:

  • What are the specific ESG information needs of investors and various stakeholders and whether a single set of globally accepted sustainability standards can meet these needs?
  • What are the challenges for developing a single set of globally accepted sustainability standards?
  • What are the (unintended) consequences of having a single set of sustainability standards?
  • What are the challenges for report preparers of mandatory sustainability standards?
  • What learning from the harmonisation of financial accounting standards can inform the proposed harmonisation of sustainability accounting standards?
  • What are the implications for auditing and assurance of ESG information disclosure under a mandatory sustainability standard-setting regime?
  • How will companies’ current engagement with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and reporting against those goals will be impacted?
  • Will more standardised sustainability reporting lead to greater convergence in ESG ratings, rankings and indices?
  • Can the International Integrated Reporting Framework provide an overarching conceptual framework for potential standards?
  • How should conflicts between the needs of different stakeholders and issues of dynamic materiality be considered in new sustainability standards?
  • What are the policy implications at global and national government levels?
  • How will the introduction of ESG matrices, a financial materiality lens and a capital market orientation impact on the work undertaken towards a global solution for planetary sustainability?

We are also open to other topics which fit the underlying general theme of this special issue.


Dedicated workshop

An online workshop dedicated to the topic of this special issue will be organised by Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal in collaboration with the Adam Smith Observatory of Corporate Reporting Practices (Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow) and Social and Environmental Sustainability in Organisations Research Group (Swinburne University of Technology). The online workshop will take place in June 2022. Authors of papers accepted for the special issue will be invited to present their research at the workshop. Representatives from the profession and relevant regulatory bodies and standard setters will participate as discussants of these papers. The workshop will enable direct dissemination of the research findings to interested parties and stimulate thought-provoking discussions.

Further details on the workshop will be available from 1 January 2021 at https://www.gla.ac.uk/research/az/adamsmithobservatory/.

Submission and review process

All submissions should be made through the Emerald Editorial System for Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal using https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/sampj

The submission deadline for receipt of papers is 30 June 2021. Papers will not be considered for the special issue if they are submitted after this date.

Submissions must adhere to the format and style guidelines of the Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal (https://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/journal/sampj#author-guidelines).

Submissions will be subject to an initial screening by the Guest Co-editors of the special issue and papers which fall outside the scope of the special issue or which are considered unlikely to be suitable for the special issue will be desk rejected. The remaining papers will then be subject to double-blind refereeing. There is no submission fee. All accepted papers must have originality in their contributions and have attained the high standards of the Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal. The Editors of the Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal will oversee the final set of accepted papers prior to publication.

The guest editors welcome enquiries from those who are interested in submitting. All papers will be reviewed in accordance with the normal processes of Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal. It is anticipated that this special issue will be published in 2022. Any queries about the special issue should be directed to the guest editors.

Submitting and Schedules

  • Papers submitted to the special issue will undergo a typical double-blind review process
  • Submissions to the journal must be made using ScholarOne Manuscripts, the online submission and peer review system.
  • The papers should be between 5000 and 10000 words (including references).
  • Author guidelines can be found on the journal’s page.
  • The submissions window opens on 1 March 2021. The submission link will be available on this website on this date.
  • The submission deadline is 30 June 2021



Accountancy Europe (2020), Follow-up paper: Interconnected standards setting for corporate reporting. (Accountancy Europe: Brussels).

Her Majesty’s Treasury (2020), A Roadmap towards mandatory climate-related disclosures (Her Majesty’s Treasury,: London).

Impact Management Project (2020), Statement of Intent to Work Together Towards Comprehensive Corporate Reporting (Carbon Disclosure Project, Climate Disclosure Standards Board, the Global Reporting Initiative, the International Integrated Reporting Council, and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board).

SEC Investor Advisory Committee (2020), Recommendation of the SEC Investor Advisory Committee Relating to ESG Disclosure (U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission: Washington D.C).

Shaw, J. (2020), New Zealand first in the world to require climate risk reporting, 15 September, (New Zealand Government: Wellington).

World Economic Forum (2020), Toward Common Metrics and Consistent Reporting of Sustainable Value Creation (World Economic Forum: Geneva).


[1] The responses to the Consultation paper are available at: https://www.ifrs.org/projects/work-plan/sustainability-reporting/comment-letters-projects/consultation-paper-and-comment-letters/


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