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An analysis of the Italian governmental guidelines and of the local governments' practices for social reports

Federica Farneti (Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Bologna, Forlì, Italy)
Benedetta Siboni (Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Bologna, Forlì, Italy)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 30 August 2011

Abstract

Purpose

This paper seeks to analyse social report guidelines and practices within Italian local governments (ILGs). First, it compares the contents of the two Italian governmental guidelines for developing social reports in public sector organisations with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guideline, to determine similarities and differences in disclosures. Second, it examines a group of social reports issued by ILGs, to explore the incidence, frequency, and quality of disclosure, as against the GRI guideline.

Design/methodology/approach

The study uses content analysis to test the nature/content of the governmental guidelines, and to determine what was disclosed in a group of ILGs' social reports. The paper analyses the social reports by applying the Guthrie and Farneti coding instrument, extended by including the Italian governmental guidelines.

Findings

Several observations emerge from the present study. First, from the comparison of the GRI and the Italian governmental guidelines, it emerges that only a few categories of the latter are similar to the GRI and these concern mainly general aspects. Second, the disclosure of categories and elements in the social reports, as against the coding instrument, was found to be fragmentary. The paper concludes that the Italian governmental guidelines are of a managerial nature, and they have little to do with sustainability, except for aspects related to labour.

Originality/value

Little research has been published on social reporting practices within the public sector, unlike the private sector. In Italy social reports are an emerging practice, with a growing interest paid by the government and academia. Nevertheless, published research is mainly of a normative nature, and there is a gap on what actually is in social reports.

Keywords

Citation

Farneti, F. and Siboni, B. (2011), "An analysis of the Italian governmental guidelines and of the local governments' practices for social reports", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 101-125. https://doi.org/10.1108/20408021111162146

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited