The United Nations, federal governments and their agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), shareholder activists, private sector standard setters, and academic researchers, as well as many others, are taking actions to improve corporations' accountability regarding the environmental and social impacts of their operations. These actions have helped propel a rapid increase in voluntary corporate sustainability reporting. Although the uptake in sustainability reporting has received a significant amount of support from relevant and respected organizations, academic and policy debates continue over whether voluntary corporate sustainability reports can monitor corporate activities effectively. While some researchers view these reports as signals of superior actions, others argue that they provide corporations with an opportunity to obfuscate their actual social and environmental performance through selective and incomplete disclosure strategies. The purpose of this commentary is to advocate for accounting researchers, regardless of their theoretical framework, research question, or method, to use a more inclusive definition of the public interest when performing corporate sustainability reporting research. We believe that a more inclusive public interest definition is required due to: (1) the broad impact of corporate social and environmental activities on global climate change and planetary sustainability; (2) a tendency for financial market accounting research to focus strictly on economic-based, potential corporate net benefits or costs derived from voluntary corporate sustainability reporting; and (3) the need to acknowledge the collective action problem inherent in developing policies dealing with corporate sustainable development activities and reporting. By using a more inclusive definition of the public interest in corporate sustainability reporting research, the accounting research community can contribute more positively to society's understanding of how well corporations are meeting and reporting on their significant public interest responsibilities related to the climate change consequences of their operations.

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