Problematising Sustainability Assurance Practice: Roles of Sustainability Assurance Providers

  • Charika ChannuntapipatEmail author
Part of the Accounting, Finance, Sustainability, Governance & Fraud: Theory and Application book series (AFSGFTA)


Sustainability assurance (hereafter ‘SA’) has been a significant area of development in corporate reporting during the last two decades. The practice has been criticised as a part of green washing activities of some organisations. Unlike financial audit practice, SA is largely unregulated. Thus, the roles of SA providers are not clear whether they serve as watchdogs for stakeholders or business consultancy of reporting organisations. This study employs a qualitative research approach, using textual sources as the main data collection method. Drawing on the perspective of actor–network theory (hereafter ‘ANT’), the paper focuses how SA providers negotiate their roles and identities through their problematisation of the assurance practice. The findings show that assurance providers’ understandings of their roles vary depending on the interests of other related parties. The study shows, in particular, that the providers’ perceived roles vary between what can be termed an ‘independent verifier’, a ‘sustainability consultant’ and a ‘sustainability promoter’. This paper provides further understanding of and thought-provoking messages about the SA providers’ roles. This could benefit reporting organisations, stakeholders and regulators by enhancing their understanding and the awareness of the roles of SA providers that could reflect the purpose of the practice at large.


ANT Problematisation Sustainability assurance Assurance practice Sustainability reporting 



This paper is a part of my doctoral work at Alliance Manchester Business School, The University of Manchester. I am grateful to my supervisors, Professor Stuart Turley and Dr. Anna Samsonova-Taddei, for suggestions and advice throughout my doctoral years.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Birmingham Business SchoolUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK

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