[Journal:] Business and Society Review [ISSN:] 1467-8594 [Volume:] 124 [Issue:] 4 [Pages:] 479-496
Sustainability reports are a crucial instrument to inform outside stakeholders not only about a company's sustainability performance but also to manage impressions. However, they are often prone to greenwashing and the reporting of negative topics can jeopardize corporate legitimacy. Therefore, this paper aims to analyze reporting quality and how grocery retailing companies deal with this challenge of reporting the true picture. The empirical material is taken from the latest sustainability reports and information available on the Internet for two major German supermarkets, six grocery discount retailers, and two organic supermarkets. The Global Reporting Initiative standards are used to assess and compare the extent of information disclosure. A qualitative content analysis is applied to identify negative disclosure aspects and their legitimation. While the main focus areas (supply chain, employees, environment/climate, and society) are similar for the companies, different levels of reporting quality appeared. Negative information is rarely reported and “abstraction” and “indicating facts” are the dominant legitimation strategies.