Hard and soft sustainability disclosures: Australia's resources industry
Accounting Research Journal
School of Business and Law
Purpose - Although studies in corporate sustainability have been vastly growing, there has been an increasing demand for more industry-specific sustainability reporting studies to develop a greater understanding of industry differences in sustainability reporting practice. This study aims to measure the quality of sustainability disclosures in the current leading environmentally sensitive industry in Australia - The resources industry. Design/methodology/approach - A scoring index was developed to measure economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainability by integrating the fundamental principles of the hard and soft disclosure items from Clarkson et al.'s (2008) environmental index into the social and economic aspects of the Global Reporting Initiative framework. Subsequently, the index was used to assess sustainability disclosures in the annual and sustainability reports of resources companies in Australia. Findings - The main findings show that companies report more of soft disclosure items than the hard ones. It is also found that companies report most sustainability information in the economic aspect rather than the social and the environmental aspects of sustainability. Most companies disclose sustainability information in their annual reports with few companies producing stand-alone sustainability reports. Originality/value - This study addresses the need for more industry-specific sustainability studies by focusing on Australia's resources industry. It also contributes to the lack of an existing tool to measure disclosures based on companies' true contributions to sustainability by developing a new scoring index for hard and soft sustainability disclosures, which includes all three aspects of sustainability (i.e. economic, environmental and social). © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.