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Sustainability 2018, 10(9), 3233;

Approaches on the Screening Methods for Materiality in Sustainability Reporting

Center for Global Change and Earth Observations, Department of Geography, Environment and Spatial Sciences, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA
Institute of Agricultural Resources and Regional Planning, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing 100081, China
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 26 July 2018 / Revised: 27 August 2018 / Accepted: 4 September 2018 / Published: 10 September 2018
(This article belongs to the Section Economic, Business and Management Aspects of Sustainability)
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Recent decades have seen a surge in corporate sustainability reports (SRs); their proliferation, however, does not ensure effective and consistent reporting on materiality. To improve the completeness, consistency and uniformity of SRs, this study aims at providing a review on the definition and identification of materiality and to propose screening methods for materiality assessments using publicly available resources. We found that most acknowledged standards and initiatives diverge in their definitions and approaches towards materiality. Four screening methods are proposed, including two that are directly usable: (1) Sustainability Accounting Standards Board Materiality Map™ and (2) Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Topics for Sectors; and two involving more desktop research: (3) GRI’s Sustainability Disclosure Database and (4) modeling from a life-cycle perspective. The second and third approaches are tested through a comparison study for the apparel and energy industries in selected regions using content analysis. The results indicate that the two approaches, with different levels of complexity, yield inconsistency in obtaining the most (i.e., the top three) material topics. The GRI’s Sustainability Disclosure Database is recommended for practitioners due to its balanced disclosure on management, economic, environmental and social sustainability themes. View Full-Text
Keywords: materiality; sustainability reporting; global Reporting Initiative; content analysis materiality; sustainability reporting; global Reporting Initiative; content analysis

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Wu, S.R.; Shao, C.; Chen, J. Approaches on the Screening Methods for Materiality in Sustainability Reporting. Sustainability 2018, 10, 3233.

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