This study analyses the evolution of sustainability reporting in Italian listed companies taking into account some differences between 2002 and 2011 reporting practices. The analysis is aimed at showing the presence of normative and mimetic isomorphic pressures towards sustainability reporting and the use of GRI guidelines, and also at highlighting the presence of an improvement in reporting practices. The research adopts a common framework of report characteristics to compare practices in two different periods, while content analysis is used to classify the purposes of sustainability reporting and to measure the relevance of different categories of stakeholder, in terms of space occupied in the report. The analysis shows that sustainability reporting in Italian listed companies has increased between 2002 and 2012, and has been associated with the increase in the use of GRI guidelines. Data also show a general enhancement in the practices of reporting, measured on three main areas: improvement in the reports, better embedding of reporting into management practices and enhancement of accessibility, communication and stakeholder considerations.
Keywords: sustainability reporting, Italian listed companies, Global Reporting Initiative, GRI, institutional theory, normative isomorphism