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|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|7||2011||18 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Accounting Forum, Volume 35, Issue 3, September 2011, Pages 187–204
This study develops a content analysis framework that provides information on the comprehensiveness of corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting, an important aspect of social and environmental accountability. Comprehensive reporting, as defined here, requires three types of information for each disclosed CSR item: (i) vision and goals, (ii) management approach, and (iii) performance indicators. The feasibility of the framework to assess the comprehensiveness of CSR reporting is demonstrated using the 2005 annual reports of a sample of publicly traded Belgian companies. The content analysis reveals a low level of comprehensive reporting. This finding complements those of prior studies on the completeness of CSR reporting and, therefore, feeds the debate regarding the extent to which CSR reporting can be considered a mechanism for discharging social and environmental accountability.
Social and environmental disclosure practices have been proposed by social accounting scholars as a mechanism by which accountability duties may be discharged because they can inform a wide variety of stakeholders regarding companies’ social and environmental impacts (see Adams, 2004, Gray et al., 1996, O’Dwyer et al., 2005b and Unerman, 2000). To discharge accountability, however, these disclosures need to demonstrate corporate acceptance of a company's social and environmental responsibility (Adams, 2004). According to Adams (2004); this acceptance can be demonstrated through a clear statement of values with corresponding objectives and quantified targets with expected achievement dates against which the company must report their progress. Although companies are increasingly disclosing corporate social responsibility (CSR) information (e.g., Adams, 2004, Archel et al., 2008 and Gray et al., 2001), it is highly questionable whether the current annual, stand-alone CSR or social and environmental reports can satisfy the increasing demand for accountability (Adams, 2004 and Milne and Gray, 2007). Recently, Hopwood (2009) has voiced his impression that companies report much more on aims and intentions than on actual actions and performance. To close this gap, prior research (Adams and Harte, 2000, Adams, 2004, Adams et al., 1995, Robertson and Nicholson, 1996 and van Staden and Hooks, 2007) suggests that companies should report comprehensively by providing information on their (i) aims and intentions, (ii) actions and (iii) subsequent performance concerning different CSR issues. This paper provides a content analysis framework to explore whether companies report CSR information in a comprehensive fashion. ‘Comprehensive reporting’, as interpreted in this paper, requires companies to disclose three types of information for each disclosed CSR item: (i) vision and goals (VG), (ii) management approach (MA) and (iii) performance indicators (PI). These three information types are based on Robertson and Nicholson (1996) and on Vuontisjärvi (2006), and they refer to disclosures of (i) stated aims and values, (ii) specific actions and (iii) actual performance in a quantitative way. For instance, for the CSR item ‘emissions’, this approach means that a company discloses, e.g., (i) the aim to reduce emissions by a specified quantity, (ii) the specific actions to realize this intention and (iii) the actual reduction achieved. If a company reports in this way, it is possible to obtain a clearer view of the company's acceptance of its social and environmental responsibility, allowing the presented information to be placed in context (Adams, 2004). As such, comprehensive reporting is one of the conditions that need to be fulfilled to demonstrate accountability (e.g., Adams and Harte, 2000 and Adams, 2004). Many academic papers (e.g., Al-Tuwaijri et al., 2004, Cormier et al., 2005, Gray et al., 1995 and Wiseman, 1982) have looked at whether CSR disclosures are qualitative or quantitative. However, to our knowledge, no attempts have been made to systematically assess whether companies report comprehensively on specific CSR items. This paper addresses this limitation by developing a content analysis framework that reveals the comprehensiveness of CSR reporting by capturing not only (i) the disclosed CSR items but also (ii) the accompanying information types (VG, MA and PI). Due to these different information types, the proposed content analysis structure is among the first to capture the contextualization of CSR disclosures. By providing an indication of both the completeness (i.e., number of disclosed CSR items) and the comprehensiveness of CSR reporting, the developed content analysis structure gives a clearer indication of the extent to which an organization is accountable to its stakeholders (Mathews, 1997). To demonstrate the feasibility of the developed framework in assessing the two dimensions of CSR reporting previously indicated, a content analysis is conducted on the 2005 annual reports of a sample of Belgian listed companies. The main reason for choosing this sample is that, while reporting patterns have been explored in many different national contexts, to our knowledge, no academic study to date has focused on Belgium (see Thomson, 2007). The 2005 annual reports are selected for analysis because these reports were the most recently available annual reports at the start of this research project.1 The discussion section indicates that the insights provided by the 2005 reports are still relevant today. Furthermore, these 2005 findings are briefly discussed in relation to current knowledge of the companies’ CSR performance. Without a doubt, Belgian companies have significant environmental and social impacts. For example, a recent OECD report (2007) revealed that the Belgian industrial sector still puts pressure on the air, soil, water and other natural resources. Although the environmental impact of Belgian companies has declined in recent years (MIRA-T, 2008 and OECD, 2007), Belgian companies have been confronted with their environmental backlog from the past and have been required by both public and government agencies to clean up contaminated soil and watercourses. Furthermore, the Belgian public has always been very concerned about companies’ social impacts, especially regarding employment. This concern reflects the fact that Belgium is a country with a long tradition of social dialogue and strong union representation. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the survey of the Federation of Enterprises in Belgium (FEB) (2007) of Belgian companies revealed that companies tend to focus on the labor aspect of CSR.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
This study provides a content analysis framework to investigate the comprehensiveness of CSR reporting. Comprehensive reporting, as defined in this study, requires that three information types be provided for each disclosed CSR item: (i) vision and goals (VG), (ii) management approach (MA) and (iii) performance indicators (PI). The main contribution of this study is thus the development of a content analysis framework that reveals both the content of the disclosed CSR information (area and item) and the accompanying information types (VG, MA and PI). As such, two important aspects of accountability can be assessed simultaneously: (i) completeness and (ii) comprehensiveness. Hence, an indication is provided regarding the extent to which a company is accountable to its stakeholders. The developed content analysis framework was applied to the 2005 annual reports of 108 publicly traded Belgian companies to demonstrate its capacity to (i) assess both dimensions of CSR reporting previously indicated and (ii) answer a variety of research questions. The results reveal that Belgian companies do not report completely on their CSR behavior. The accountability demand remains totally unanswered in nearly 27% of Belgian listed companies. Although approximately 73% of the companies provide some CSR information, the number of items covered is typically low. Furthermore, only 36% of the items are covered by at least one PI. As such, we can conclude that the trend to provide mainly narrative CSR information (e.g., Adams et al., 1995, Beck et al., 2010, Guthrie et al., 2008 and Wiseman, 1982) was also present in the 2005 Belgian context. In addition, the results indicate that it is doubtful that the ascertained level of disclosure will satisfy the information demands of stakeholders because more than 59% of the reporting companies fail to provide all three information types for at least one item. Moreover, nearly 32% of the disclosing companies fail even to report information on both VG and MA for at least one disclosed CSR item. However, it is encouraging that, in contrast to Hopwood's (2009) impression, the majority of the isolated disclosures are MA disclosures and not VG disclosures. As such, this finding is in contrast with Robertson and Nicholson's (1996) analysis of corporate communication, which indicated that companies mostly reveal General Rhetoric information, and it also contrasts with Adams et al.’s (1995) analysis of environmental reporting, which indicated that companies mostly inform the public on their mere intentions regarding the environment. The present paper's finding thus leads to the conclusion that although the disclosed information is piecemeal, it contains some information that could be relevant to the user. However, the fact that nearly 64% of the disclosed items remain uncovered by a PI is astonishing. The analysis also reveals that the level of comprehensive reporting is higher for the economic, environment and labor practices and decent work areas. One possible explanation is that environmental and labor-related issues are more embedded in Belgian companies than are other aspects such as human rights. In the labor area, companies typically report all three information types for well-embedded labor practices, such as training and health and safety. Similarly, in the area environment, items that are part of the daily operations (such as energy) score well. The use of environmental management systems like ISO 14001 can also positively influence the level of environmental reporting because a feature of these systems is the focus on intentions-actions-targets (Kuk, Fokeer, & Hung, 2005). The high level of comprehensive reporting in the economic area is due to the high number of companies that report comprehensively on their donations to charity. Finally, through three examples, the suitability of the developed content analysis framework to answer a variety of research questions has been illustrated. First, in line with prior research, industry effects are noted. Banks are the best CSR reporters in Belgium when both completeness (i.e., number of disclosed CSR items) and comprehensiveness of reporting are taken into consideration. Scholtens (2009, p. 173) argues that CSR “gets deeper and deeper into the banks’ business as usual” because (Belgian) banks develop an environmental policy, offer socially responsible investments and savings, and pay attention to community involvement, training facilities as well as diversity and equal opportunities. Once again, the results indicate that the level of comprehensive reporting is higher when CSR practices are well embedded. Second, differences in the level of comprehensive environmental reporting and in the number of items reported between environmentally sensitive and non-environmentally sensitive industries are noted. Although the environmentally sensitive industries report more environmental items, the results for the level of comprehensive reporting appear more mixed: one environmentally sensitive industry performs below average, one on average and a third above average. Third, high-profile companies have been shown to react differently, with some reporting comprehensively on the sensitive items, whereas others do not. Overall, the findings indicate that CSR reporting in Belgium has a long way to go before it can be deemed a comprehensive and widely practiced activity among listed companies. Annual reports of Belgian companies leave the accountability demands of their stakeholders thus largely unanswered. There are some indications that CSR reporting has recently achieved greater attention in Belgium. In 1998, the Institute of Company Auditors launched the Award for Best Belgian Environmental Report, now labeled the Best Belgian Sustainability Report. In 2006, only 17 organizations (companies and NGOs) participated. Recently, however, the number of reports submitted (mostly annual reports) has increased, and in 2010, 44 organizations participated. In 2008, Business & Society Belgium issued a guide on CSR reporting. However, only companies cooperated in the development of this guide, and the quality of some reports was still deemed insufficient.13 Furthermore, examination of the 2009 (most recent) annual reports of the non-disclosing companies utilized in the present enquiry indicate that nearly all still do not disclose any social and environmental information. As such, it may only be through some regulatory route that Belgian stakeholders can achieve access to the accountability information that they require. Based on previous studies and on the present findings, policy makers should not only prescribe the items a company should disclose but should also focus on the different information types that should be provided in regard to each specific item. However, it seems unlikely that the Belgian parliament will imminently pass a law on social and environmental reporting because in contrast to other EU countries such as the UK and the Netherlands, no precursory voluntary standards, codes or guidelines for social and environmental reporting have been developed to encourage companies to report. Therefore, it is important that voluntary reporting initiatives such as GRI try to enhance comprehensive reporting by better communicating to companies the idea that different information types need to be provided for each CSR item.