Local council sustainability reporting: Victoria versus Tuscany

Local councils in Victoria may not have much in common with their equivalents in Tuscany, but in both regions there is a growing interest in sustainability reporting.

Dr Nick Sciulli, from the School of Accounting and Finance, has collaborated with Dr. Giulio Greco and Professor Giuseppe D'Onza from Italy's University of Pisa to investigate what motivates Victorian and Tuscan local councils to introduce sustainability reporting. While not legally required to do so, many councils in both Victoria and Tuscany produce sustainability reports voluntarily, either as discrete documents or incorporated into annual reports.

In interviews with councillors and local government managers, Dr Sciulli and his team found differing conceptions of sustainability reporting. The ambiguity of the term contributed to variations in sustainability reporting practices. In Tuscany, sustainability reports are usually called 'Social Reports' and are produced separately to annual reports.

In Tuscany, the main reason for voluntary sustainability reporting was to improve transparency in council accounting and activities, and also to 'legitimise' particular strategies. In the Victorian context, two principal factors influenced sustainability reporting: leadership in senior management (having 'a champion promoting the cause'), and community interest in environmental and sustainability issues. 

Droughts, floods and other natural disasters contributed to greater community demand for Victorian local councils to provide sustainability information. The five Victorian local councils paid more attention to matters of stakeholder engagement. The emphasis of the five Tuscan councils was on facilitating community demands and aligning them with national policies.

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