The EU and its Member States are very active regarding sustainability reporting and public policy instruments on sustainability reporting, which vary widely, in type, focus and actors involved. Information on the effect and impact on reporting practices of public policy instruments is limited, however, some conclusions can be drawn:
• Governments are increasingly assessing the effects of their policy instruments, showing that public policies have contributed to a stronger uptake of sustainability reporting (recent studies in Denmark and Sweden).
• At the same time, many companies had already been reporting before legislation was introduced. In the case of the UK for example, apart from lobbying and media attention, the driving forces of reporting practices were the financial communities, business players and NGOs, and the fact that many reporting experts are based in the UK.
• Individual national frameworks and legislation may lead to different schemes and obligations. Especially in the case of publishing local reports, as well as a global report that summarizes information from the local level, differing disclosure requirements become problematic.
• Tools for governments, which are already effectively being used, and which can be used more to optimize sustainability reporting, are, for example:
- Creating instruments to benchmark and recognize good performance.
- Setting an example by producing a sustainability report in public agencies.
- Promoting awareness of the benefits of reporting within government.
- Actively participating in discussions on the future of reporting.
- Assisting developing countries in data-collection technologies.
- Requiring state-owned companies to publish sustainability reports.
- Playing a role against fragmentation of sustainability reporting regulations.
For many large multinational companies, sustainability reporting has become a mainstream phenomenon. Also EU governments are very active regarding sustainability reporting. However, the quantity of sustainability reports is still very small compared to the large number of MNEs in the EU. Furthermore, both the quality of the reports and the public policy instruments on sustainability reporting still vary widely. In cooperation with companies and organisations active in the field of (sustainability) reporting, governments may be able to further enhance the number of reports and the quality of reporting substantially.
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