Global corporate social responsibility disclosure practices
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This thesis provides comparative evidence on corporate social responsibility disclosure (CSRD) practices by many of the world’s largest companies. Specifically, it investigates the relationship between company characteristics, institutional factors, the presence of a voluntary assurance statement, and internal contextual aspects with the extent of CSRD in sustainability reports. The thesis approach is based on legitimacy theory tenets to better explain the motivations of these prominent companies to communicate CSRD.The data collection focuses on the 2009 sustainability reports sourced from 460 highly visible public companies from 44 separate countries. Key Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) items are used as the benchmark disclosure checklist. The empirical results indicate that the average level of overall CSRD is 56.8 percent. Labour practices is the most disclosed theme by companies (66.4 percent) followed by economic (60.2 percent), society (57.0 percent), environmental (56.7 percent), human rights (49.0 percent), and product responsibility themes (46.0 percent).Statistical analysis indicates that high-profile industries, the presence of a voluntary assurance statement and a corporate social responsibility committee positively influence the extent of corporate social responsibility disclosures. Interestingly, companies operating in emerging markets disclose more sustainability information than communitarian or Anglo-American jurisdictions. Consistent with legitimacy theory, these results suggest that companies which are more likely impacted by their community demonstrate higher accountability and transparency by increasing CSRD communication to better address stakeholders’ expectations.Overall, the empirical results have theoretical and practical implications for key stakeholders to improve drivers of CSRD. First, this thesis provides evidence that legitimacy theory can help explain the extent of corporate social responsibility disclosures. Second, this thesis adds new insights on the positive role of the voluntary assurance statements and corporate social responsibility committees in motivating companies to provide more extensive and higher credible sustainability reports.
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