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Making the most of corporate social responsibility reporting: disclosure structure and its impact on performance

Clodia Vurro (Department of Management and Technology, Università Commerciale “Luigi Bocconi”, Milan, Italy)
Francesco Perrini (Department of Management and Technology, Università Commerciale “Luigi Bocconi”, Milan, Italy)

Corporate Governance

ISSN: 1472-0701

Article publication date: 9 August 2011

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Abstract

Purpose

Examining a three‐year disclosure experience of a sample of Fortune 100 global companies, the paper aims to propose and test a model that relates the structure of CSR disclosure to corporate social performance. Based on the results obtained, it proposes to draw implications for emerging economies.

Design/methodology/approach

Combining content analysis of CSR reports and corporate social performance data, the paper built a longitudinal dataset starting from the population of worldwide companies included in the AccountAbility Rating between 2004 and 2007. Longitudinal regression analysis is performed on a final sample size of 114 firm‐year observations involving 38 firms over a three‐year period.

Findings

The paper finds evidence that the level of disclosure does not improve firm ability to manage stakeholders. However, a finer‐grained analysis of the structure of disclosure shows that better social performers are those who increased the breadth of their disclosure to stakeholders and uniformly distributed disclosure across stakeholders.

Research limitations/implications

Results provide an empirical test for the theories describing true responsible economic actors as those who are able to combine high engagement with the social context of reference and balanced coverage of diversified interests. However, the study suffers the usual limitations of content analysis‐based research, as well as exclusively relying on CSR disclosure by large corporations.

Practical implications

Findings suggest not only the importance of structuring the report in a comprehensive way, and extending coverage to multiple stakeholders and related issues, but also the need for balance between informative needs, thus avoiding concentrated structures. Accordingly, companies that report on more themes, presenting a balanced and comprehensive product, develop a better ability to manage their stakeholder network, thus gaining higher corporate social performance.

Originality/value

The study seeks to revisit the relation between CSR disclosure and corporate social performance, answering the request for more rigorous measures. It goes beyond the level of disclosure as a comprehensive proxy of firm‐stakeholder dialogue and demonstrates how a finer‐grained analysis of the structure of disclosure can be a better predictor of superior performance.

Keywords

Citation

Vurro, C. and Perrini, F. (2011), "Making the most of corporate social responsibility reporting: disclosure structure and its impact on performance", Corporate Governance, Vol. 11 No. 4, pp. 459-474. https://doi.org/10.1108/14720701111159280

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited