Corporate Sustainability Indicators In Banking Sector Accounting Essay


ABSTRACT: The purpose of this paper is to see the situation regarding the indicators from the Sustainability Reports. For this we use a qualitative research, a content analysis of these reports. Our sample is composed by the banks that develop their activity in our country for which we analysed the last year reports at group level. We choose only an industry sector to obtain the homogenity of the sample. The findings reveal a number of 86 indicators, which were used in these reports. We analized the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) indicators used by 12 companies. The most reported indicators are EN4, EN8, LA1, LA10, while the last reported indicators are E5, E10 E13 E15, EN20, EN21, EN23, EN27, HR9, HR10 The results obtained are important for future research in this area, for both managers and researchers.


Corporate social responsibility and sustainability issues are more and more present in day by day activity of the organizations. So, we can see the companies give importance to this issues and elaborate reports in this regard., like guidelines, because these have a voluntary nature. Organizations take into account the most representative one, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI, 2006). It contains indicators grouped in economical, environmental, performance, social (labour practices, human rights, society, and product responsibility) indicators (GRI, 2006).

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In our demarche we strat with a brief literature review regarding the corporate economic, social, environmental responsibility aspects, folowed by the description of the research methodology. After these we present the results and some discussions, accompanied by conclusions and future research.

The literature review

The notion of sustainability is about ensuring a balanced scale related to the social, environmental and economic aspects. (Figge and Hahn, 2004). An organization whose activity is considering aspects of sustainable development will act in this sense on long term. Sustainability was first mentioned by the World Commission on Environment and Development (1987).

Taking responsibility for its impact on society means, first, that an organization accounts for its actions. Social accountability (Brennan and Solomon 2008). a concept that describes the communication of the social and the environmental effects of the actions of an organization by its stakeholders, is an important element of social responsibility. Many companies publish externally audited annual reports covering sustainable development issues, reports which vary widely in format, style and methodology of evaluation, even within the same industry. (Cheung 2011, Lo and Sheu 2007, Lo'pez et al. 2007).

There is a very fine line between corporate governance, corporate social responsibility and sustainability. All are extremely important for a company and should not be viewed separately. Responsibility for society is a strong differentiating factor for companies, with implications on sustainable development of society. Social responsibility actions, on short-term, include costs for the organization, but on long term they bring a win-win-win relationship, if we try to look beyond the numbers. Social responsibility is not a necessity, is an important economically, ecologically, and socially obligation.

There are some relevant studies on corporate economical, social, environmental responsibility and sustainability issues. Some authors like Ratanajongkol et al. (2006), Cooke (1989), Deegan and Gordon (1996) highlights that these indicators are undisclosed. Proper management of human resources, sustainable development progress, leading to the increase of the income through the increase of the productivity, which is focused on lowering costs. The notion of corporate sustainability performance measurement has been discussed, among others, by Atkinson (2000) Beloff et al. (2004), Schwarz et al. (2002), Szekely and Knirsch (2005), Tanzil and Beloff (2006). The social or environmental issues can have an influence on economic performance and therefore should be a dialogue with stakeholders to be in constant interaction with the way they develop their activity. A number of publications have focused specifically on the balanced scorecard approach to performance measurement (Hubbard 2009, Schaltegger and Wagner 2006, Dias-Sardinha and Reijnders, 2005; Figge et al. 2002).


Regarding the research methodology, our question is: "what indicators are currently being disclosed in corporate sustainability reports?" To address this question, a total number of 12 banking companies corporate sustainability reports, at group level, were identified and analyzed in content We considered the last reports which were published on their websites.

Results and discussions

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), originally started by CERES (Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies) and UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), is an independent multi-stakeholder initiative, which has developed guidelines for sustainability reporting. The GRI guidelines set out reporting principles as well as specific content for the sustainability report. They structure sustainability reporting in terms of economic, ecological and social performance (also known as the "triple bottom line"). GRI reporting is based on eleven principles like: transparency, inclusiveness, auditability, completeness, relevance, sustainability context, accuracy, neutrality, comparability, clarity, timeliness: regular publication of reports.

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There are different names to refer to the sustainability reports and also their length varies. This variety denotes the lack of agreement on disclosure of this information.

Table 1. Types and length of reports from the sample


Type of report

Number of reports

Maximum length

Minimum length

Mean length


Citizenship Report






Corporate SocialResponsibility Report






Sustainability Report











We split the indicators into 3 main categories (regarding the triple bottom line). The number of indicators for each category is illustrated in the figure below:

Table 2. Number of indicators and indicator category


Indicator Category

Number of indicators


EC Economic



EN Environment



LA Labor Practices and descent work

HR Human Rights

SO Society

PRProduct and service





The Citizenship Report, the Corporate Social Responsibility Report, the Sustainability Report highlight more environmental indicators than the others. The environmental category was by far the most represented with 29 indicators, followed by the financial category.

In terms of economic performance, it can be easily measured using internationally accepted indicators. Also, environmental performance is measured by studying the report used resources-results, while social performance is more difficult to calculate. It must be exceeded the threshold under which the concept remains at a philosophical approach stage (determined by the lack of applicability) and recognized that it can be managed properly, becoming a catalyst for sustainability. Managing social responsibility in corporate governance should be viewed as a win-win-win strategy on long term. In U.S.A. corporate social responsibility has a voluntary nature. At European level there are specific settlements, while in Romania we can see the translations of the international organizations corporate social responsibility, without deep involvement.

Michael Porter and Mark Kramer (2002), noted that "in the long run…social and economic goals are not inherently conflicting but integrally connected" (p. 5). They see a symbiosis between economic/social investments/returns, more exactly organizations must focus on that actions that bring benefits both for them an for society.


The 12 corporations studied disclosed a total number of 95 different indicators. The research highligts that all companies from our sample reported on all three areas of the triple bottom line. These findings support the affirmation of Brown et al.'s (2009a) who said that the GRI is becoming an established institution.

Many companies do not communicate about their activities on responsibility. Some do not want to believe that praise or that use a marketing trick. Others believe that a communication relating to social responsibility is the exclusive domain of corporations. And for others, responsible business is something so natural that it never occurred to talk about it. In fact, letting people know what a company does in socially responsible activity, is provided information that they need about company values, products and services are offered on the market.

As a method of promoting information on the organization's social responsibility involvment is the preparation and the publication of the social responsibility reports, which must ensure reasonable representation of the performance of the organization, including the positive and the negative aspects. Reporting is an integral part of involving stakeholders in the interaction process. The Corporate Social Responsibility Report forms are: free report (leaflets with information about actions taken by the company), triple bottom line report (includes economic, social and environmental indicators), standardized report (AA1000, SA8000, GRI, etc.).

The results of the research highlights the use of the corporate sustainability indicators in practice and can be a basis for further research in this respect, which can be continued with some in depth questionnaire interview to explain how were selected, how are used, how they evolved etc. The main conclusion of this study is that the indicators disclosed are very diverse and because of this is a bit difficult to elaborate a standard set of indicators.


This article was elaborated in the PhD project in Europe Knowledge Economy Standards, DoEsEC., Financed by the European Union and co-financed by European Social Fund Operational Programme Human Resources Development 2007-2013 in collaboration with the Academy of Economic Studies.

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