An Enigma Set to Remain a Fizzer? On the Absence of Social and Environmental Reporting in New Zealand
The uptake of sustainability reporting in New Zealand has been pretty dismal. While a few companies produced social and/or environmental reports in the early 1990s, and the practice diffused a little during the 2000s, New Zealand remains an outlier with the vast bulk of New Zealand’s largest organisations still not producing such reports. Early commentators noted that the practice was “desperately seeking volunteers” (Gilkison, 1998) and with reporting rates languishing the practice was still considered to be “starting behind” by the KPMG international surveys in 2011, 2013 and 2015. This study aims to gain insights into why reporting has not flourished in New Zealand, despite its early start, and despite considerable efforts on the part of not only those few organisations that have reported, but also other business intermediaries dedicated to promoting sustainable business practices including reporting. We map the sustainable business field and identify influential players. We undertake semi-structured interviews with two Chief Executives of New Zealand sustainable business intermediaries (SBIs) and with senior managers of eleven of their reporting and non-reporting members. We use neo-institutional theory (NIT) to frame and analyse our findings. We find that reporting rationales identified in the literature and promoted by the business intermediaries both motivate and cause resistance to reporting. Reporting seems far from an inevitable outcome for organisations engaging with sustainability in New Zealand, and while the SBIs appear to facilitate weak isomorphic pressure, the absence of any coercive pressure from either them or other external forces such as the Government suggests social and environmental reporting seems set to remain a practice undertaken by few.