Predmet ovog istraživanja čine izvještaji o održivosti te interni procesi hotelskih poslovnih sustava potrebni za generiranje ovih internih i eksternih izvještaja. Cilj je istraživanja istražiti povezanost između primjene načela održivosti u internim procesima i kvalitete izvještaja o održivosti.
Doprinos teorijskog dijela rada odnosi se na računovodstvo održivosti, sustav izvještavanja o održivosti i nefinancijsko izvještavanje koje izlaze izvan okvira klasične paradigme financijskog izvještavanja te time nameće potrebu za definiranjem novih forma, veličina i parametara kojima bi se obuhvatio nastali utjecaj poslovnog sustava na okoliš i zajednicu u kojoj djeluje, kreirajući na taj način novu računovodstvenu paradigmu. Prezentirani su teorijska polazišta, zakonodavni okvir, standardi te smjernice i okviri na kojima se temelji prezentiranje informacija u okviru izvještaja o održivosti, a detaljno su i elaborirana načela relevantna za ocjenu dostignutog stupnja harmonizacije izvještavanja o održivosti. Uzorak istraživanja za ocjenu eksterne harmonizacije izvještavanja o održivosti čine eksterni izvještaji o održivosti deset globalno najuspješnijih hotelskih lanaca, dok je interna harmonizacija ocijenjena temeljem rezultata empirijskog istraživanja provedenog u hotelijerstvu Hrvatske.
U istraživanju je korišten mješoviti konvergentno paralelni istraživački nacrt, u kojem su kvalitativne i kvantitativne metode ekvivalentne i korištene su simultano. U ispitivanju stupnja eksterne harmonizacije izvještaja o održivosti korišten je kvantitativni pristup primjenom metode analize sadržaja, a u ispitivanju stupnja interne harmonizacije izvještavanja o održivosti korišten je kvalitativni pristup primjenom deskriptivne statistike. U ispitivanju povezanosti načela održivosti i kvalitete izvještaja o održivosti korištena je inferencijalna statistika.
Rezultati istraživanja ukazuju da su interna i eksterna harmonizacija relativno niske, a korelacija između primjene načela održivosti u internim procesima i kvalitete izvještaja o održivosti za korisnike nije dokazana.
Ograničenja prisutna u istraživanju generirala su i doprinos istraživanja. Uz teorijsko pozicioniranje izvještavanja o održivosti kao jednog od elemenata računovodstva održivosti, doprinos istraživanja prisutan je i u nedokazanoj hipotezi, čime se ukazuje na nisku razinu važnosti kvalitete izvještaja o održivosti te pokazatelja o održivosti. Kako bi ovo istraživanje bilo moguće provesti, bilo je potrebno proučiti i definirati paradigmu, ontologiju i epistemologiju istraživanja, temeljem čega su se dalje definirale metodologija i metode istraživanja. Najznačajniji doprinos istraživanja odnosi se na prijedloge za buduća istraživanja kako bi se postigla harmonizacija izvještavanja o održivosti u hotelskim poslovnim sustavima, ali i drugim djelatnostima.
Sustainability reporting is becoming an even more prevalent form of both reporting on and a sophisticated way of suggesting a business entity’s sustainable approach to generating profit, along with the low negative impact it has on its environment and society. Although being relatively a new form of reporting, sustainability reporting has become somewhat prestigious, particularly when considering the length of reporting on the sustainability of some business entities. In certain cases, sustainability reporting has become a necessity by law, yet it is not a widely practised form of reporting. Such cases are becoming even more widespread worldwide, with perhaps the Directive 2014/95/EU by the European Commission of the European Union (EU) most widely known. By the Directive effective from 2014, all entities in the EU starting on 1st January 2017 are to report on non-financial information, such as environmental, social and employee matters, as well as respect for human rights, anti-corruption, bribery matters, and other topics related to the impact an entity generates in its natural, social and economic environment. As a member state, Croatia has incorporated provisions of the Directive into its national Accounting Act, thus requiring all entities with more than the average number of 500 employees on their balance sheet data, a criterion stated in the Directive 2014/95/EU, to report on non-financial information, while it is encouraged that other entities should welcome and abide by this Directive as well. This requirement means that business entities should be prepared to disclose non-financial information on a timely basis of their own choice, but to do it regularly, just as it is being reported on financial matters in highly sophisticated and widely familiar financial statements. This requirement which was defined by the Directive and triggered the research questions of this thesis, aims to understand the level of readiness of business entities to meet this requirement. The literature review suggests that the application of sustainability principles in the internal processes impacts the quality of information disclosed in (external) sustainability reports. This leads to a research question concerning the methods used by business entities, i.e. practices that are the results of application of certain accounting methods (de facto harmonisation), as opposed to de jure accounting harmonisation, e.g. accounting methods set by law and/or accountancy profession.The purpose of this research is to examine the state of sustainability reporting in the hotel industry from the point of the de facto accounting harmonisation, thus assessing the level of preparedness of hotel business entities to comply with the law requirement defined by the Directive. The hypothesis of the research refers to correlation between the application of sustainability principles (environmental and social) in internal processes and the quality of sustainability reports. The research divides de facto harmonisation into external de facto harmonisation and internal de facto harmonisation. Such approach to the research requires a mixed methods research design, where qualitative and quantitative methods are sequentially and equivalently applied, meaning they are afforded equal weighting, with one method preceding the other. The external de facto harmonisation focuses on (available) external sustainability reports disclosed by the world’s leading ten hotel groups (Marriott International, Accor Hotels, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Hilton, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Jin Jiang International Hotel Management Company, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, Melia Hotels International, Intercontinental Hotel Group, NH Hotel Group) that were available for five reporting periods. The internal de facto harmonisation focuses on the internal processes in the hotel entities, which data was gathered by an online questionnaire e-mailed to large and medium-sized hotel entities (all having 50 or more employees) that are registered in the Republic of Croatia. The external de facto harmonisation is explored by quantitative methods, with data being gathered by content analysis of sustainability reports and measured by a harmonisation index. The internal de facto harmonisation is explored by qualitative methods, with data from the questionnaire being analysed by the use of descriptive and non-parametric (Kendall W test of concordance) statistics. The hypotheses were tested by Spearman’s correlation coefficient. The data analysis did not provide statistically significant correlation between the application of sustainability principles and the quality of sustainability reports, thus not supporting the stated hypotheses.
The research results reveal very low levels of both external and internal de facto harmonisations. Also, very few environmental and social indicators moderately correlate with the quality of sustainability reports. Due to the history of the Uniform System of Accounts for the Lodging Industry (USALI) it was expected that the level of de facto harmonisation among hotel groups and entities would be somewhat higher. The reason to consider USALI standards is that these are worldwide recognised standards used in the hotel industry practice for financial segment reporting, even in Croatia, thus making it an excellent starting point for creating a quality internal non-financial reporting, not only for internal but also for external stakeholders. These research results reveal that the hotel industry is aware of the importance of sustainability reporting and has been trying to implement it into its business, but the results also suggest the lack of support that comes from de jure harmonisation. Current trends in the de jure harmonisation suggest very different paths in sustainability reporting, depending upon the geographical area and the stakeholders in focus, resulting in quite different approaches to sustainability reporting, e.g. SASB Standards, GRI Standards, Integrated Reporting to name but a few. These research results suggest that de facto harmonisation to a certain degree may be correlated to and/or caused by the de jure harmonisation.
Major limitations of the research are evident in the analysis of both the external and internal harmonisations. Although ten of the world-leading hotel groups sustainability reports have been analysed, their collection required a meticulous approach and a constant scrutiny as to which reports should and which reports should not be included in the research. In this process, one of the challenges was the different time frames of these reports, because the hotel groups were both reporting on a different time basis and by different reporting frameworks. Another challenge to overcome was the different frameworks of reporting that were applied over the period (different versions of the GRI frameworks, UN Global Compact, the framework of their own choice and such like). In general, there are very few sustainability reports available due to this being a relatively new kind of reporting. Although the biggest and the most significant hotel entities in Croatia did fill out the questionnaire, the response rate was rather low (N = 13), which also limited the research to the use of descriptive and non-parametric statistics. Even after the mandatory date for reporting on sustainability set by the Directive, the number of these reports in Croatia did not increase simply because the majority of hotel entities in Croatia did not fall under the category of having more than 500 employees, thus it not being mandatory to report on sustainability. Generally speaking, at the moment there are not enough either sustainability reports or responses available from the hotel entities to perform any kind of multivariate analysis and to test the casual relations, and to discover the true nature of both the external and internal de facto harmonisation in the hotel industry.
A suggestion for further research is to find the most suitable way of upgrading current USALI Standards with environmental and social indicators, for USALI Standards are a well developed system for internal (financial) reporting in the hotel industry, and as such could provide a methodological framework for improving both internal and external sustainability reporting in the hotel industry. Another suggestion for further research would be to assess the internal and external impacts that affect the quality of the disclosed sustainability reports. Due to the sensitivity of the needs of the hotels in different areas even within one country, a suggestion is that future researches should include both quantitative and qualitative methodologies and methods in order to generate the indicators and other relevant information needed in sustainability reporting specific to the area. While quantitative methodology reveals why something is happening, qualitative methodology reveals the answers as to how and why something is happening.
Regardless of the current situation, the history of the sustainability reporting development has proven that sustainability has been continuously evolving, suggesting it will continue this trend in the years to come. Yet, further evolvement of this reporting system inevitably presumes a higher level of quality of these reports and information therein disclosed, meaning that now that some kind of framework for sustainability reporting has been established, the next focus ought to be on the quality of the information disclosed therein. Another approach to consider in improving sustainability reporting is to motivate business entities to improve sustainability reporting “from the inside out”, meaning that management ought to be motivated to report on the impact the business has on the environment and society, not only because of the legislation or to meet yet another requirement to be present in certain areas (e.g. stock exchanges), but also because sustainability reporting provides better recognition among the stakeholders in the hotel industry, including employees, wider society, management and others. This could be done by recognising such efforts though national, international and industry rewards, e.g. The Tourism Flower – Quality for Croatia, which all could signify the level of commitment of a business entity towards the full and quality implementation of sustainability reporting system in their operations.
There is no question that the idea and nature of sustainability reporting are slowly and gradually changing the approach to earning a profit and the impact it has on an environment and society. With sustainability becoming a foundation of further successful development, sustainability reporting is emphasising the need for active involvement in improving sustainability reporting, thus raising the bar for sustainability in general, and in particular in the tourism and hospitality industry.