W(h)ither Ecology? The Triple Bottom Line, the Global Reporting Initiative, and Corporate Sustainability Reporting

Markus Milne, Robert Hugh Gray

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    462 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    This paper offers a critique of sustainability reporting and, in particular, a critique of the modern dis¬connect between the practice of sustainability reporting and what we consider to be the urgent issue of our era: sus¬taining the life-supporting ecological systems on which humanity and other species depend. Tracing the history of such reporting developments, we identify and isolate the concept of the ‘triple bottom line’ (TBL) as a core and dominant idea that continues to pervade business reporting, and business engagement with sustainability. Incorporating an entity’s economic, environmental and social perfor¬mance indicators into its management and reporting pro¬cesses, we argue, has become synonymous with corporate sustainability; in the process, concern for ecology has become sidelined. Moreover, this process has become reinforced and institutionalised through SustainAbility’s biennial benchmarking reports, KPMG’s triennial surveys of practice, initiatives by the accountancy profession and, particularly, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)’s sus¬tainability reporting guidelines. We argue that the TBL and the GRI are insufficient conditions for organizations con¬tributing to the sustaining of the Earth’s ecology. Para-doxically, they may reinforce business-as-usual and greater levels of un-sustainability.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Business Ethics
    Early online date18 Nov 2012
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012

    Keywords

    • Triple bottom line Global Reporting Initiative Corporate sustainability reporting Ecological sustainability Archival analysis

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