Reporting Corporate Sustainability: The Challenges of Organisational and Political Rhetoric

  • Christopher Gorse
  • John Sturges
  • Nafa Duwebi
  • Mike Bates


The political voice of sustainability has broken. Presidential change in the United States has led to it hardening its tone, re-prioritising its stance and bringing a marked loss of climate change emphasis. The UK, another globally important economy, also amended its discourse making regulatory changes and dropping its commitment to zero carbon buildings. The UK’s impending departure from the European Union (BREXIT) brings future disconnection from EU directives, which had tied the country to reduced emissions commitments.

Political rhetoric and regulatory change brings uncertainty to those industrial organisations that have aligned their strategies to take advantage of sustainable practice. These developments are too recent to predict the impact on the industry and corporate sustainability, nevertheless the position that industry has adopted prior to these changes is interesting. Will those organisations already committed to sustainability continue maintaining a social or corporate interest or will the changes bring sustainable and economic uncertainty?

A review of annual reports of multinational corporations for years 2010-2012 was undertaken to understand the strategic positions that companies were taking with regard to sustainability. More recent reports and observations are then considered to provide insight into how organisations, both construction and non-construction, are reporting their current position. The review reflects on the corporate approaches conveyed to the outside world, the departures from their reports and the lack of certainty that current political changes are having on companies that have set their vision on sustainability investment. The review finds a divergence between the corporate sustainability strategies and the emerging rhetoric from some governments.


Accounting for Sustainability Corporate Reporting Managing Sustainability Responsible sourcing Sustainability Sustainability Reporting SAM Index Risk Data Online Corporate reporting Sustainability 


  1. Acciona (2015a). Annual report 2015, available
  2. Adams, M., Thornton, B., Seperhri, M. (2014) The impact of the pursuit of sustainability on the financial performance of the firm. Journal of Sustainability and Green Business, 2.
  3. Atiyen, C. (2017). Everything you need to know about the VW diesel-emissions scandal. Car and Driver, 10th March 2017. Available
  4. Bairstow, J. (2017). Firm call on government to tackle building emissions. Enery Live News, Energy Efficiency. Available
  5. BRE. (2009). Certification scheme for responsible sourcing of construction products, SD186, rev 2, 20 July 2009. Available
  6. Bruntland. (1987). Our common future - Brundtland report. Oxford University Press: United Nations.
  7. Caradonna, J. L. (2014). Sustainability. A history. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. von Carlowitz, H. C. (1713). Sylvicultura oeconomica. Leipzig: Oder haußwirthliche Nachricht und Naturmἄßige Anweisung zur wilden Baum-Zucht.Google Scholar
  9. Ciegis, R. (2004). Ekonomika ir aplinka: Subalansuotos plėtros valdymas. Kaunas: Vytauto Didžiojo universiteto leidykla.Google Scholar
  10. Ciegis, R., & Ciegis, R. (2008). Laws of thermodynamics and sustainability of economics. Inzinerine Ekonomika-Engineering Economics, 2, 15–22.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  11. Daimler. (2011). Sustainability report 2011. Stuttgart: Daimler AG.
  12. Daimler. (2012). Sustainability report 2012. Stuttgart: Daimler AG.
  13. Diamond, J. (2005). Collapse. How societies choose to fail or survive. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  14. Dresner, S. (2008). The principles of sustainability. London: Earthscan.Google Scholar
  15. Duwebi, N. (2017) Sustainability integration into project management: Evidence for top SAM listed companies. PhD Thesis, School of the Built Environment and Engineering, Leeds Beckett UniversityGoogle Scholar
  16. Eccles, R.G., Ioannou, I., Seafeim, G. (2011). The impact of corporate sustainability on organizational process and performance, Working Paper Summaries, Harvard Business School 14/11/11
  17. Ehrlich, P. (1968). The population bomb. Population control or race to oblivion? New York: Ballantine.Google Scholar
  18. Elkington, J. (1997). Cannibals with Forks. The triple bottom line of 21st century business. Oxford: Capstone Publishing.Google Scholar
  19. Elkington, J. (1999). Cannibals with Forks. The triple bottom line of 21st century business. Oxford: Capstone Publishing.Google Scholar
  20. Epstein, M. (2008). Making sustainability work: Best practice in managing and measuring corporate social, environmental and economic impacts. Sheffield: Greenleaf Publishing Ltd..Google Scholar
  21. Epstein, M. J., & Roy, M.-J. (2003). Making the business case for sustainability. Linking social and environmental actions to financial performance. Journal of Corporate Citizenship, 9, 79–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fiat S.P.A. Sustainability Report. (2011). Economic, environmental and social responsibility. Sustainability report 2011. Fiat S.P.A.Google Scholar
  23. Hamani, K., Al-Hajj, A. (2015). A conceptual framework towards evaluating construction contractors for sustainability, the construction, building and real estate research conference of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors RICS COBRA AUBEA, 8–10 July 1015Google Scholar
  24. International Labour Office (2011). A skilled workforce for strong, sustainable and balanced growth: A G20 training strategy, Geneva November 2010, Switzerland. Available at:
  25. IUCN, World Conservation Union (1993). Guide to preparing and implementing national sustainable development strategies and other multi-sectoral environment and development strategies. International Institute for Environment and Development, Environmental Planning Group, London.Google Scholar
  26. IUCN, WWF, & UNEP. (1980). The world conservation strategy. Switzerland: Gland.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lamprinidi, S., Ringland, L. (2008). A snapshot of sustainability reporting in the construction and Rea estate sectors. Global Reporting Initiative, GRI Research & Development Series. Available
  28. Malthus, T. (1798). An essay on the principles of population. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (1993).Google Scholar
  29. Mansouri, N. (2016). A case study of Volkswagen unethical practice in diesel emission test. International Journal of Science and Engineering Applications, 5(4), 213–216. Available CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Merica, D. (2017). Trump dramatically changes US approach to climate change. CNN Politics. March 29, 2017
  31. Moorhouse, G. (2005). Great Harry’s Navy. How Henry VIII gave England Sea Power. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson.Google Scholar
  32. Niels, F., Jorna, R., & Van Engelen, J. (2005). The sustainability of “Sustainability” – A study into the conceptual foundation of the notion of “Sustainability”. Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management, 7(1), 1–33. Imperial College Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Oke, A. E., & Aigbavboa, C. O. (2017). Sustainable value management for construction projects. Switzerland: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD (1990). ISSUESPAPERS: On integrating environment and economics, Paris.Google Scholar
  35. O’Riordan, T. (1988). Sustainable environmental management: Principles and practice. London: Belhaven Press.Google Scholar
  36. O’Riordan, T., & Yaeger, J. (1994). Global environmental change and sustainable development. InGlobal change and sustainable development in Europe. Wuppertal Institute, Nordrhein-Westfalen.Google Scholar
  37. Osborne, G. (2015). Fixing the foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation. HM Treasury, CM 9098 July 2015.
  38. Peansupap, V., Walker, D. H. T. (2004). Strategic adoption of information and communication technology (ICT): Case studies of construction contractors. In F. Khosrowshahi (Ed.), 20th Annual ARCOM Conference, 1–3 September 2004, Heriot Watt University (Vol. 2, pp. 1235–1245). Association of Researchers in Construction ManagementGoogle Scholar
  39. Pezzey, J. (1992a). Sustainable development concepts (Rep. No. 11425). Washington, DC.
  40. Pezzey, J. (1992b). Sustainability: An interdisciplinary guide. Environmental Value, 1(4), 321–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Puri, D., & Tiwari, S. (2014). Evaluation the criteria for contractors’ selection and bid evaluation. International Journal of Engineering Science Invention, 3(7), 2319–6734.Google Scholar
  42. Rees, M. (2003). Our final century. Will the human race survive the twenty-first century? London: William Heinemann.Google Scholar
  43. Rockstrom, J., Steffen, W., Noone, K., Persson, A., et al. (2009). Planetary boundaries: Exploring the safe operating space for humanity. Ecology and Society, 14(2), 32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Shipman, T. (2017) ‘Less climate concern’ key to Brexit trade, Sunday Times, 9 Apr 2017Google Scholar
  45. Silva, G., & De Serio, L. C. (2016). The sixth wave of innovation: Are we ready? Departamento de Administração, Faculdade de Economia, Administração e Contabilidade da Universidade de São Paulo (USP), 13(2), 128–135.Google Scholar
  46. Silvius, J., & Schipper, R. (2012). Taking responsibility: The integration of sustainability and project management. Retrieved from PM World Today on June 19.Google Scholar
  47. United Nations. (2000). Cleaning up our mining act: A North-South dialogue. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  48. United Nations Statistical Office. (1992). SNA draft handbook on integrated environmental and economic accounting. New York: UN Publications.Google Scholar
  49. Upstill-Goddard, J., Glass, J., Dainty, A. R. J., & Nicholson, I. (2015). Analysis of responsible sourcing performance in BES 6001 certificates. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers – Engineering Sustainability, 168(2), 17–81.Google Scholar
  50. Volkswagen AG. (2012b). Sustainability report 2012. Volkswagen AG.Google Scholar
  51. Washington, H. (2015). Demystifying sustainability. Oxford: Earthscan, Routledge.Google Scholar
  52. Watson, J. (2017). Will the energy transition be derailed. UKERC. 28 March 2017.
  53. World Bank. (1987). Environment, growth and development. Washington, DC: Development Committee Pamphlet 14, World Bank.Google Scholar
  54. World Bank. (1992). World development report, 1992: Development and the environment. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. WWF (2017) A letter to the Secretary of State, Clean Growth Plan 27 March 2017.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Gorse
    • 1
  • John Sturges
    • 1
  • Nafa Duwebi
    • 1
  • Mike Bates
    • 2
  1. 1.Leeds Beckett University, Leeds Sustainability InstituteLeedsUK
  2. 2.PLProjectsMeltham, HolmfirthUK

Personalised recommendations