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Social reporting in the tobacco industry: all smoke and mirrors?

Lee Moerman (University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia)
Sandra Van Der Laan (The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 1 June 2005




The purpose of this paper is to examine the process of social reporting as a proactive management strategy to bridge the divide between the social and the economic.


In July 2002 British American Tobacco (BAT) launched its first social report coinciding with the release of the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. A case study, utilizing textual analysis of publicly available documents examined through a legitimacy perspective, was used to explore this issue.


This paper asserts that the process, guidelines and assurance employed by BAT for its social report are a management strategy to enter the contested domain of public policy.

Research limitations/implications

Since this research is limited to BAT's 2001/2002 Social Report and supporting documents, further research could include interviews with key players or a longitudinal study to compare and contrast the social reporting practices of BAT over time.


The tobacco industry has been heavily criticised and is now facing control via global regulation. In this context the WHO, as a multilateral body exercising regulatory powers, extends the notion of stakeholders that have the potential to exert pressure on the “legitimacy” of an organisation.



Moerman, L. and Van Der Laan, S. (2005), "Social reporting in the tobacco industry: all smoke and mirrors?", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 18 No. 3, pp. 374-389.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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