Views of corporate managers on assurance of sustainability reporting: evidence from Japan

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The demand for assurance in sustainability reporting has increased significantly in recent years. The objective of this study is to examine the views of corporate managers on the current state of, and future prospects for, this emerging assurance practice in Japan. The research is based on a small program of six semi-structured interviews and a questionnaire survey of the top 500 companies listed in the Tokyo Stock Exchange (Nikkei 500 companies). The findings show that respondents are still reluctant to adopt assurance on sustainability reporting. In contrast, they prefer third-party comment, a unique practice in Japan to enhance the credibility of the reported information. The study also identifies the determinants, stakeholders’ influence for the adoption of assurance and third-party comment on sustainability reporting. It shows that main impediments to adopting assurance service include high assurance fees, less demand for sustainability assurance from stakeholders, and a lengthy assurance process. The findings are explained through the lens of legitimacy theory. While the extant literature concentrated on European practice, this is the first known study that informs the adoption of assurance and third-party comment on sustainability reporting in Japan, the leading country in the world to publish such non-financial reports.

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    In the sample, average assurance fee paid to the accounting assuror was 4.85 million yen (approx.) and to NGO/NPO was 0.70 million. In contrast, annual honorarium paid to the third party comment was 0.25 million yen (approx.).


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This study forms part of the results of the research supported by Grant-in-Aids for Scientific Research (B) 19H01549 from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, Japan.

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Correspondence to Mohammad Badrul Haider.

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Profile of the companies and interviewees.

Interviewee (code)Interviewee positionIndustryCurrent assurance and TPC practiceAssets (million yen)Date and time of interview
M1GM/CSR divisionElectric machineryBoth assurance (C.F) and TPC (Academics)5,451,173May 7, 2010.
1 h
M2GM/CSR divisionElectric machineryTPC (Academics)532,254May 13, 2010.
1 h
M3GM/CSR planningMachineryBoth assurance (A.F) and TPC (Academics)1,405,402Nov. 5, 2010
2 h
M4Senior coordinator, Env. planning Div.Electric machineryBoth assurance (A.F) and TPC (NGO)8,358,057Feb. 3, 2011
1 h
A1ManagerAssurance practitionerAug. 5, 2010.
2 h
A2CEOAssurance providerApril 4, 2011
1.5 h
  1. GM general manager, C.F. certification firm, AF accounting firm, TPC third-party comment

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Haider, M.B., Nishitani, K. Views of corporate managers on assurance of sustainability reporting: evidence from Japan. Int J Discl Gov (2020) doi:10.1057/s41310-019-00070-0

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  • Sustainability reporting
  • Assurance
  • Third-party comment
  • Auditing
  • Credibility
  • Japan