Orchestration and consolidation in corporate sustainability reporting: The legacy of the Corporate Reporting Dialogue

N. Rowbottom*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The paper uses theoretical conceptions of power and orchestration to analyse the role of the Corporate Reporting Dialogue on the global standardisation of sustainability reporting.

The paper adopts an interpretive approach and draws on a qualitative dataset derived from interviews, documentary analysis and observation.

The paper traces how the Corporate Reporting Dialogue was orchestrated by the International Integrated Reporting Council, with the objective of aligning sustainability reporting standards, but moved to become a vehicle for orchestrating standards consistent with the recommendations of the Task Force for Climate-Related Financial Disclosure. Collaboration between the Dialogue's five most active bodies forged the blueprint adopted by the International Sustainability Standards Board's vision of sustainability reporting that prioritised reporting only on those socio-ecological issues deemed to materially affect future enterprise value.

The paper explicates the role of collaborative initiatives in the standardisation of sustainability reporting and shows how these initiatives act as vehicles to subtly undermine the GRI position (presented as one standardiser amongst many whose vision appears as an outlier, despite its position as the dominant sustainability reporting standardiser), and establish the prioritisation of a sustainability reporting worldview based on investor-oriented enterprise value creation. The case also draws attention to the specific orchestrators involved in establishing this prioritisation, and reveals the influence of philanthropic foundations. In doing so, it extends our understanding of legitimacy generation in standard-setting by showing how collaborative initiatives offer private standardisers another means to generate input legitimacy for what, in this case, represented a vision of reporting at odds with most sustainability reporting practice. Finally, the paper extends the sites of power to collaborative initiatives and details the mechanisms through which covert power is exercised but also masked where orchestrators use convening power, funding and membership choices to define the boundaries of discussion by influencing who participates, what is on the agenda and what activity is undertaken. Rather than viewing standardisation as a simple pursuit of conquest between individual standardisers, the paper considers how collaboration provides the opportunity for assimilation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)885-912
Number of pages28
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number3
Early online date5 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2023


  • Sustainability Reporting
  • Orchestration
  • Non-financial Reporting
  • International Sustainability Standards Board
  • Standard-setting
  • Power
  • Non-financial reporting
  • Sustainability reporting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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