Purpose: This paper introduces the special issue “Rebuilding trust: Sustainability and non-financial reporting, and the European Union regulation”. Inspired by the studies published in the special issue, this study aims to examine the concept of accountability within the context of the European Union (EU) Directive on non-financial disclosure (hereafter the EU Directive) to offer a critique and a novel perspective for future research into mandatory non-financial reporting (NFR) and to advance future practice and policy.
Design/methodology/approach: The authors review the papers published in this special issue and other contemporary studies on the topic of NFR and the EU Directive.
Findings: Accountability is a fundamental concept for building trust in the corporate reporting context and emerges as a common topic linking contemporary studies on the EU Directive. While the EU Directive acknowledges the role of accountability in the reporting practice, this study argues that regulation and practice on NFR needs to move away from an accounting-based conception of accountability to promote accountability-based accounting practices (Dillard and Vinnari, 2019). By analysing the links between trust, accountability and accounting and reporting, the authors claim the need to examine and rethink the inscription of interests into non-financial information (NFI) and its materiality. Hence, this study encourages research and practice to broaden mandatory NFR practice over the traditional boundaries of accountability, reporting and formal accounting systems.
Research limitations/implications: Considering the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis, this study calls for further research to investigate the dialogical accountability underpinning NFR in practice to avoid the trap of focusing on accounting changes regardless of accountability. The authors advocate that what is needed is more timely NFI that develops a dialogue between companies, investors, national regulators, the EU and civil society, not more untimely standalone reporting that has most likely lost its relevance and materiality by the time it is issued to users.
Originality/value: By highlighting accountability issues in the context of mandatory NFR and its linkages with trust, this study lays out a case for moving the focus of research and practice from accounting-based regulations towards accountability-driven accounting change.
- Double materiality
- Mandatory reporting
- Non-financial disclosure
- Non-financial reporting