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What can we learn from corporate sustainability reporting? Deriving propositions for research and practice from over 9,500 corporate sustainability reports published between 1999 and 2015 using topic modelling technique.


Organizations are increasingly using sustainability reports to inform their stakeholders and the public about their sustainability practices. We apply topic modelling to 9,514 sustainability reports published between 1999 and 2015 in order to identify common topics and, thus, the most common practices described in these reports. In particular, we identify forty-two topics that reflect sustainability and focus on the coverage and trends of economic, environmental, and social sustainability topics. Among the first to analyse such a large amount of data on organizations' sustainability reporting, the paper serves as an example of how to apply natural language processing as a strategy of inquiry in sustainability research. The paper also derives from the data analysis ten propositions for future research and practice that are of immediate value for organizations and researchers.