Corporate recordkeeping: the evidence-base for sustainability reporting by multinational enterprises
thesisposted on 01.03.2017, 23:59 by Deserno, Jozefina Hubertina Wilhelmina Johanna (Ineke)
In an ever-changing business environment and emerging information age, multinational enterprises around the world are subject to greater public scrutiny by those impacted by their activities. Disclosure of information on the impact of corporate activities on the society, the economy and the environment in which companies operate is and indispensable element of corporate social transparency and good governance. To respond to requests for information multinational enterprises publish sustainability reports. But critics contend that these reports are created for public relations purposes and lack credibility and quality information. Other criticisms are that the information reported does not provide tangible evidence of corporate impact. Records are evidence of corporate activities and decisions, and thus recordkeeping principles and programmes would logically be a critical element in corporate social transparency and sustainability reporting activities. It is precisely the nexus between recordkeeping and corporate social transparency that is the theme of this PhD study. This research examines the relevance of recordkeeping for the reporting by multinational enterprises of information on their corporate activities and decisions that impact the societies, and the environments in which companies operate. The central question of this research explores how records as evidence of business transactions might better serve sustainability reporting and auditing purposes. Furthermore, the research explores the idea that good corporate recordkeeping should be a means to quality sustainability reports, as without it there is not a reliable evidence-base for reporting, and thus no accurate and reliable reports. The underlying theoretical assumption of this research follows the interpretivist approach. Interpretivist research aims “to describe and understand phenomena in the social world and their meaning in context” (Cecez-Kecmanovic & Kennan, 2013, p, 123). By applying a variety of research methods and techniques the study aims to collect and analyse as much evidence about corporate recordkeeping and sustainability reporting from different perspectives as possible to enable understanding of their relationship. The findings in this study provide extensive insights into the sustainability reporting process by multinational enterprises and how corporate recordkeeping could better support this activity. However, this study also found that currently the nexus between sustainability reporting and corporate recordkeeping does not exist in multinational enterprises and thus the findings of this research have significant implications for the stakeholders, including the recordkeeping, reporting and auditing communities, and the wider society.