Measuring what matters in a dynamic business world : an exploratory case study of company and stakeholder perceptions of materiality in the renewable energy sector
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- Master Thesis 
An important step towards reaching the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda and the associated Sustainable Development Goals, is to illuminate what impact companies and industries have on environmental, social and economic aspects. In this context, it is also crucial to understand what key stakeholders consider important, because they have the power to influence where the efforts of companies are directed. However, stakeholder perceptions of sustainability materiality in particular has proven to be a major research gap in the literature. This study takes an exploratory and qualitative approach to investigating how companies in the Norwegian renewable energy sector and some of their key stakeholders perceive sustainability through a materiality lens, including how they prioritize and operationalize sustainability issues. In total 14 representatives distributed among electricity production companies, electric grid companies, electricity retail companies, investors, NGOs, and regulatory bodies were interviewed to get a broad perspective on sustainability and materiality perceptions in the sector. Based on a thematic analysis of the interview data, it is, broadly speaking, found that: (1) the stakeholders exert different kinds of pressure on the companies; (2) there are several conflicts of interest between companies and stakeholders and among stakeholders; (3) there is a general consensus on the materiality of environmental aspects, but more divergent perceptions of the materiality of social and economic aspects; (4) there is high uncertainty about which indicators should be used to measure impacts on sustainability; (5) there seem to be several systematic challenges to identifying and selecting sustainability indicators; (6) there seem to be several systematic factors for materiality, that together determine how issues evolve from being immaterial to being material; (7) the most protruding factor for materiality in general seems to be stakeholder pressure, especially from regulatory bodies. These findings are elaborated in detail and discussed in the context of literature from the fields of sustainability measurement and reporting, materiality, and stakeholder theory. Theoretical and practical implications are drawn from the study, and several avenues for future research are suggested based on the study’s findings and limitations.