Sustainability Reporting for Start ups: Recommendations for customized Instruments to promote Sustainability

Publikation: Arbeits- oder Diskussionspapiere und BerichteArbeits- oder Diskussionspapiere


  • Barbara Schäfer
Sustainable development can be enforced by external interventions, such as laws and regulations.
Sustainability research however finds that innovation, often emerging
in the form of entrepreneurship, has the largest potential to contribute to sustainable development.
Entrepreneurship is considered an important driver of economic growth, job creation and productivity. New businesses show innovative and creative potential to replace old products and to contribute to quality of life improvements.
Yet, various sources also emphasize the negative contributions of entrepreneurial activity for development, especially in the form of environmental degradation, but also in unproductive or even criminal rent seeking.
Sustainability reporting supports organizations in making their operations more sustainable as it helps to set goals, measure performance, and manage change. It was found to have a positive impact on a company’s actions towards more sustainable business practices.
The primary purpose of this thesis was to identify recommendations for customized sustainability reporting instruments which can bring value specifically to start upsand thus motivate them to introduce reporting.
Semi-structured interviews with CEOs and founders of start ups were
conducted to generate new empirical knowledge and allow for the formulation of recommendations.
The recommendations were developed along the reporting guide-lines of GRI.
The findings from empirical and theoretical data allowed the formulation of key
assertions. It was shown that the sustainability context of start ups is impacted by two main drivers, growth and compliance. Compliance of start ups is strongly influenced by what founders and managers consider relevant,
their resource capacities, and whether the confidentiality of their business model allows them to disclose certain information.
Sustainability reporting guide-lines base on an advanced sustainability understanding, which makes them unsuitable for “sustainability beginners”.
Growth of start ups is strongly dependent on the communication and sales channelsused in the business model and is driven by the notion of creation
, but it bases in an environment that shows high degree of uncertainty.
Start ups often base their value proposition on new technology and channels, such as mobile/internet, which are not depicted in existing reporting guidelines. Customized guidelines for start ups will need to focus more on the sustainability context of start ups and to balance disclosure and confidentiality. They will also need to show a higher level of integration of sustainability aspects to make the materiality of sustainability in economic, ecological and social issues more obvious and thus relevant to start ups.
Within constantly and faster changing economies and basing on new technological developments, start ups like Facebook, Google, Twitter and Groupon have shown to become multi-national companies registered on stock markets within a few years of their existence. It is therefore expected that introducing sustainability reporting as an early tool in a start ups’ growth can have a high impact on the overall promotion of sustainability in
the economic sector.
VerlagCentre for Sustainability Management
Anzahl der Seiten105
ISBN (Print)978-3-942638-53-1
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 2015