Keywords: sustainability reporting, business cases, reputation, trust, online reporting, banking sector, financial crises, Germany, banks, irresponsible behaviour, social fabric, society, distrust, business governance, accountability, banking research, sustainability disclosure, print–based reporting, public confidence, responsibility, reporting strategies, Deutsche Bank, HypoVereinsbank, Commerzbank, BayernLB, Bayerische Landesbank, Dresdner Bank, Hypo Real Estate, LBBW, KfW, DZ Bank, WestLB, Landesbank Baden–WÁ?rttemberg, Kreditanstalt fÁ?r Wiederaufbau, Deutsche Zentral–Genossenschaftbank, innovation, sustainable development
Sustainability reporting in the German banking sector during the financial crisis
This article investigates the sustainability reporting practice of the ten largest German banks during the financial crisis in 2008/2009. It is motivated by the wider debate about the irresponsible behaviour of banks which has resulted in the fraying of the social fabric between the banking sector and society and has created an atmosphere of deep distrust due to the failure of ensuring correct business governance and accountability. The article adopts two frameworks used in the wider analysis of sustainability reporting and sustainable banking research to explore the focus and nature of sustainability disclosure in print– and online–based reporting during the financial crisis. It finds four different approaches to sustainability reporting and discusses strategies to foster improvements in sustainability reporting in the banking sector and the rebuilding of the public's confidence. The significance of the findings is considered both for the notion of responsibility in the wider terms of the relation between sustainability and the banking sector and for the reporting strategies of individual banks.