Materiality in corporate sustainability reporting within UK retailing

Peter Jones*, Daphne Comfort, David Hillier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


The concept of materiality is attracting increasing attention in corporate sustainability reporting. This paper offers a preliminary examination of the extent to which the UK's leading retailers are currently addressing materiality in their sustainability reports and offers some wider reflections on the ways retailers are embracing materiality. The paper begins with a short discussion of the concept of materiality and on its determination and the paper draws its empirical material from the most recent sustainability reports posted on the Internet by the UK's top ten retailers. The findings reveal that there are significant variations in the extent to which the UK's leading retailers are embracing materiality and that there is no evidence of a sector specific approach to materiality within the UK retail community. More generally the authors argue that the methods currently being used to determine materiality are flawed and that retailers seem likely to continue to face challenges in looking to reconcile the relationships between executive management teams, investors and a wide range of stakeholders in operationalising the concept of materiality. The paper provides an accessible review of the extent to which the UK's leading retailers are currently embracing materiality as part of the sustainability reporting process and as such it will interest academics, students and practitioners interested in retailing and corporate sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-90
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Public Affairs
Issue number1
Early online date26 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016


  • Materiality
  • Sustainability
  • UK retailers


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