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Sustainability Accounting

Sustainability Accounting

Topic of the assignment is “helping aboriginal communities and sustainability reporting”
(i) Overview/background information of the industry/sector/context
(ii) Reporting frameworks/standards/legislations relevant to the context given
(iii) Current practice of sustainability reporting relating to the area assigned
(iv) Issues and Challenges of sustainability reporting relating to the area assigned
(v) Future prospects for sustainability reporting relating to the area assigned
(vi) Conclusion

Overview/background information of the industry/sector/context
Aboriginal Australians is a collective name coined by the British in reference to the
native inhabitants of Australia who they found living there when they began colonising the
continent in the late 16 th century (Spencer, 2006). The aboriginal communities constitute a small
percentage of the population composition in Australia comprising of about 3 per cent of the total
population and living in either Australian mainland or the Tasmanian Island (Edwards, 2004).
The Aboriginal communities have being inflicted by many catastrophes ranging from
unfavourable weather conditions to outbreaks of diseases (Read, 2011; Warren, 2013). In
addition, neglect and historical injustices bedevilled among them by their colonizers have also
been attributed to their current woes (Madley, 2012). This implies that there is an urgent need to
make sure that the Aboriginal communities are helped to successfully tackle the day to day
challenges that have continued to hinder their progress both socially and economically
(Schaltegger, Bennett & Burritt, 2006). As a result, through sustainability accounting it is highly
possible to help the Aboriginal communities to overcome their challenges with regards to the
prevailing accounting principles practiced across the globe (Blandy & Sibley, 2010; Global
Reporting, 2015).

Reporting frameworks/standards/legislations relevant to the context given

Sustainability accounting as well as reporting are both essential because they enable
organisations and/or corporations to consider and evaluate their impacts on a variety of
sustainability issues, subsequently enabling them towards achieving more transparency
concerning the opportunities and risks they face (Van der, Adhikari & Tondkar, 2005). As a
result, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has developed Standards or frameworks that ought to
help governments, businesses as well as other organisations to succinctly understand and
disseminate the impact of their respective businesses on critical issues about sustainability. Some
of the GRI standards that are distinctive include:
Multi-stakeholder input: This implies that various stakeholders have to be engaged in the
entire process of accounting and reporting. This helps in ensuring that all the needs of report
users and makers are adequately addressed to enable that there is production of a universally-
applicable reporting guidance that has the potential to effectively meet the needs of all
stakeholders (Global Reporting Initiative, 2015). As a result, creation of all elements of the
Reporting Framework and its subsequent improvements are done using an approach that is
consensus-seeking taking into consideration the interests of all stakeholders including
sustainability reporting practitioners, business, accounting, investors, civil society, labour,
academics, and governments (Van der, Adhikari & Tondkar, 2005). 
A record of use and endorsement: There are many global corporations currently using
GRI’s Standards to prepare their sustainability performance reports and the list is continuing to
grow. This is attributable to the fact that sustainability information has continued to attract more
new audiences that before such as investors and regulators. As a result, a number of reporters in

their annual growth are expected to continue to touch of strategy areas for better reporting (Van
der, Adhikari & Tondkar, 2005). 
Governmental references and activities: Over recent past there has being more
governments’ involvement in sustainability reporting through formulation of enabling policy
which one of the key overall strategies of GRI (Van der, Adhikari & Tondkar, 2005). Hence,
more collaboration is adhered to between the governments, capital markets, and international
organisations to further this agenda (Global Reporting Initiative, 2015).
Independence: There has been strengthening of reporting standards after the creation of
the Global Sustainability Standards Board in 2014, as well as related changes in governance
structure (Global Reporting Initiative, 2015). GRI works as a non profitable foundation in order
to ensure that its funding approach ensures its independence.
Shared development costs: There is also sharing of the expenses incurred in developing
GRI’s reporting guidance among many contributors and users. For organisations and companies,
this negates the cost incurred to develop sector-based or in-house reporting frameworks (Norman
& MacDonald, 2004).

Current practice of sustainability reporting relating to the area assigned

The prevalence of natural catastrophes that emanate from climatic change and other man-
made activities the current practice of sustainability reporting has focused on issues that are more
environmental (Norman & MacDonald, 2004). For instance, Toxics Release Inventory (TRI)
reporting disclosures have become a law requirement in almost all parts of the world. This was
informed by the previous environmental disasters that also made more companies and
organisations to voluntarily disclose TRI’s in their annual reports (Global Reporting Initiative,

2015). As a result, in both Tasmanian Island and Australian Mainland inhabited by Aboriginal
communities corporations and companies have embraced the practice of GRI reporting as a
model of sustainability reporting in order to ensure that the is prevention as well as mitigation of
the impacts of environmental disasters both to the company and the Aboriginal communities
(Global Reporting Initiative, 2015).

Issues and Challenges of sustainability reporting relating to the area assigned
According to Norman & MacDonald (2004) there are several challenges that relate to
sustainability accounting with regards to the assigned area and they key one is making a decision
on who is the audience. This is attributable to the fact that companies are required to describe
their performance and approach on the issues of environmental, social and governance
importance to their stakeholders including the surrounding communities (Van der, Adhikari &
Tondkar, 2005). For larger companies like Telstra in Australia employing thousands of people
and with over a million stakeholders, this mean that almost everyone in the country is a
stakeholder. The other challenge is that, irrespective of the merit in GRI frameworks as well as
assurance standards, the compliance may result to reports that are very log and inaccessible.
However, in to adhere to ‘best practice’ compilation of the reports requires immense
organisational effort and commitment (Van der, Adhikari & Tondkar, 2005). Furthermore,
obtaining performance data that is valid and reliable from different parts of the organisation
results to fragmented and immature data especially if it is for early reports the data collection
systems (Global Reporting Initiative, 2015).

Future prospects for sustainability reporting relating to the area assigned

The future prospects of sustainability accounting and reporting are mainly going to be
characterised by increased use of technology due to adoption of integrated reporting in
conjunction with increased technological advancements and creative use of online
communication and reporting platforms (Global Reporting Initiative, 2015). As a result, specific
future prospects include: 1) extended reporting through the value chain, 2) the G4 guidelines and
development is integrated accounting and reporting, 3) improved impacts measurements, and 4)
increased mainstream role of sustainability accounting and reporting (Schaltegger, Bennett &
Burritt, 2006).


In conclusion, the adoption of sustainability accounting and reporting will lead increased
provision of sustainability information over time by corporations and organisations. This will
reflect increased demands form a wide range of stakeholders as well as market and regulatory
conversion of externalities into internalities. This means that sustainability accounting is a
daunting task that requires input from all stakeholders in order to ensure that it benefits all of
them including surrounding communities as noted in the discussion of this paper in context to
Aboriginal communities in Australian mainland and Tasmanian Island.



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