Based on the legitimacy theory, the study enhances the understanding of disclosure practices of European companies operating in the energy sector regarding the adherence to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Toward this end, the study analyses how SDGs reporting is evolving and what are the most addressed SDGs in the context of European energy sector companies. The paper's ultimate contribution is to dive deep into how such companies disclose their contributions to the SDGs to determine whether they adopt a substantive or merely symbolic approach to corporate legitimacy. To address the research objectives, a content analysis has been performed on non-financial reports published by a sample of 15 European energy sector companies included in the Global Reporting Initiative database as SDGs reporters for the period 2017–2019. Our findings suggest that while SDGs are becoming an integral part of corporate disclosure, symbolic rather than substantial changes appear to prevail, calling for actions from legislators and policy-makers.
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