CSR in an emerging country: a content analysis of CSR reports of listed companies

Yongqiang Gao (School of Management, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan City, People's Republic of China)

Baltic Journal of Management

ISSN: 1746-5265

Publication date: 17 May 2011



Given the country‐specific characteristics of corporate social responsibility (CSR), there is an increasing interest in studying CSR in developing countries. Such studies play an important role in broadening people's knowledge of CSR under different economic, social and cultural conditions. The purpose of this paper is to examine the CSR reports (CSRRs) of listed companies in the largest emerging market, namely China.


Based on a content analysis of 81 CSRRs (2007) of listed companies in domestic security markets of China (the Shanghai Security Exchanges and Shenzhen Security Exchange), the CSR features of Chinese companies are thoroughly evaluated.


The main findings of the study are as follows. Only 5.05 percent of listed companies published their CSRRs in China, and 4.42 percent of them issued a separate CSRR. Most companies (97.18 percent) use “CSRR” as the name of their stand‐alone CSRRs; 79 percent of companies hold a positive attitude to taking on social responsibilities, while no company holds a negative attitude. Various social issues and stakeholders of companies are addressed in CSRRs. In general, state‐owned enterprises (SOEs) have higher propensity to address most of social issues, which may reflect that SOEs are more politically sensitive than non‐SOEs because most of the social issues are just “political slogans” proposed by the Chinese Government in recent years. However, non‐SOEs have better performance than SOEs in addressing the interests of stakeholders. Meanwhile, industrial firms show higher propensity to address the interests of stakeholders than service firms.

Research limitations/implications

The results of this study indicate that CSR reporting practice is still at an early stage of development in China. Meanwhile, Chinese companies tend to follow the Chinese guidelines in issuing CSRRs rather than adopt international guidelines. In addition, Chinese companies are somewhat politically sensitive in addressing social issues. A major weakness of this study is that the sample only represents the best companies in assuming social responsibilities in China, thus some results cannot be generalized to all Chinese companies.


The paper helps people, especially Westerners, to comprehend CSR in China. To the author's knowledge, this paper is the first of its kind to examine CSR in China.



Gao, Y. (2011), "CSR in an emerging country: a content analysis of CSR reports of listed companies", Baltic Journal of Management, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 263-291. https://doi.org/10.1108/17465261111131848

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