Information Systems Frontiers

, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 779–797 | Cite as

Understanding the beliefs, actions and outcomes of sustainability reporting: An experimental approach

  • Matthias GräulerEmail author
  • Michael Freundlieb
  • Kerstin Ortwerth
  • Frank Teuteberg


IS researchers have identified substantial research gaps within the IS community regarding sustainability. Therefore, this paper pursues an experimental approach to investigate online sustainability reports (SRs) which are a common instrument for corporate sustainability communication. The applied research approach examines not only which properties of SRs enhance the readers’ willingness to read a SR, but also to what extent SRs can influence the readers’ actions and impact corporate image. Within the course of this paper, a belief-action-outcome (BAO) model and a corresponding experimental design, which examines SRs in three phases (i.e. before reading, during reading and after reading), are developed and conducted; subsequently the results are empirically analysed. Finally, implications for practitioners and researchers in the field of sustainability and especially sustainability reporting are demonstrated. Furthermore, possible starting points for future research are discussed. The results indicate that a sophisticated SR that satisfies the readers’ expectations has a significant impact on corporate image and the readers’ actions (i.e. buying and recommending products, investing and considering to work for the reporting company), which qualifies sustainability reporting as an important channel for corporate communication.


Sustainability reporting Experiment Corporate social responsibility Belief-action-outcome model Acceptance 



The authors would like to thank the participants in the experiment as well as the other project members, specifically Ms. Marita Imhorst, who provided valuable insights, help and substantive feedback during the research process.

This work is part of the project IT-for-Green (Next Generation CEMIS for Environmental, Energy and Resource Management). The IT-for-Green project is funded by the European regional development fund (grant number W/A III 80119242).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthias Gräuler
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael Freundlieb
    • 1
  • Kerstin Ortwerth
    • 1
  • Frank Teuteberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Information Management and Corporate Governance, Research Group on Accounting and Information SystemsUniversity of OsnabrückOsnabrückGermany

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