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From voluntarism to regulation: effects of Directive 2014/95/EU on sustainability reporting in the EU

Philipp Ottenstein, Saskia Erben, Sébastien Jost, Carl William Weuster,
Published: 12 July 2021
 by  Emerald

Abstract: Purpose: The aim of this paper is to examine the effects of the European Non-financial Reporting Directive (2014/95/EU) on firms' sustainability reporting practices, especially reporting quantity (i.e. availability of information) and quality (i.e. comparability and credibility).Design/methodology/approach: To test the main hypotheses, the authors select 905 treated firms from the EU 28 + 2 countries for a difference-in-differences regression analysis of dependent variables from the Refinitiv ESG database.Findings: The results suggest that the Directive influences sustainability reporting quantity and quality. Treated firms provide around 4 percentage points more sustainability information (i.e. availability) than propensity score matched control firms and are 19 percent more likely to receive external assurance (i.e. credibility). However, we also find that the Directive is not the decisive factor in the adoption of GRI guidelines (i.e. comparability).Research limitations/implications: The analysis is restricted to large listed firms and does not account for small, mid-sized and private firms. Further, cross-cultural differences which influence sustainability reporting are controlled for but not investigated in detail. The authors derive several suggestions for future research related to the NFR Directive and its revision.Practical implications: The authors’ findings have practical implications for the future development of sustainability reporting in the EU and for other regulators considering the adoption of sustainability reporting.Originality/value: This study is the first to provide evidence on the NFR Directive's reporting effects across multiple countries. It adds to the growing literature on the consequences of mandatory sustainability reporting. Additionally, this paper introduces a novel measurement approach sustainability information quantity that could benefit researchers.
Keywords: Non-financial information / GRI / Assurance / Reporting quality / Reporting quantity / Corporate sustainability reporting Directive / Mandatory sustainability reporting / G18 / M14 / M41 / M48

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