Circular economy (CE) continues to become an increasingly important topic within disclosure frameworks and taxonomies for sustainable finance, however, early evidence points to CE not readily being included within corporate sustainability reports. Therefore, this research aims to explore how CE is emerging within the sustainability reports of companies listed in sustainability rankings. More specifically, the presence of CE within five corporate sustainability reporting elements has been investigated (when applicable): (i) the Chief Executive Officer's message, (ii) non-financial materiality assessments, (iii) references to the Sustainable Development Goal framework, (iv) targets, and (v) indicators. Qualitative and quantitative content analysis techniques were utilised to review 138 reports published in 2020 from 94 European companies, not restricted by sector. Results showed that nearly all companies are explicitly referencing CE, however, only 7% of them integrate CE within all five sustainability reporting elements. Less than one third of companies were found to include both targets and indicators for CE suggesting that overall, CE content within sustainability reports is largely superficial and inconsistent. This investigation contributes a descriptive overview of current CE reporting trends and shortcomings, as well as detailing implications relevant for academia and practitioners developing sustainability reports and/or CE assessments. The transition towards a CE requires transparency, therefore, further research and engagement is needed to better define the value of CE within external corporate communication.
- Circular economy strategies
- Circularity indicator
- Corporate social responsibility
- Sustainability reporting
- Sustainable finance