Findings from earlier legitimacy based accounting studies provide evidence that firms respond to threats to their perceived legitimacy by increasing communication to the public. This communication is meant to demonstrate that their actions are commensurate with the values and norms of relevant stakeholder groups. Questions remain, however, as to whether it is merely a form of impression management or a reflection of the congruent activities of the firm. In the late 1990s, a unique situation arose in British Columbia’s coastal forestry industry that enabled us to examine this issue. For many years, this industry had been the target of environmental non‐government organisations’ (ENGOs) campaigns to influence change in forest management practices and conserve the coastal rainforests. In late 1999, a subset of the industry responded by forming a coalition with key ENGOs. The aim of the coalition was to develop a consensus package of recommendations for the Government of B. C. founded on eco‐system based forest management practices. Facing threats to their critical export markets, the firms viewed this initiative as their best chance for long‐term survival. We found that during this period of time there was an increase in the amount of environmental disclosure in coalition firm annual reports as compared to pre‐ and post‐coalition periods, as well as to that in a matched set of non‐coalition B.C. forestry firms. This finding provides evidence of the use of annual reports for social disclosure beyond their use as a vehicle for impression management.
Higginson, N., Simmons, C. and Warsame, H. (2006), "Environmental disclosure and legitimation in the annual report ‐ Evidence from the joint solutions project", Journal of Applied Accounting Research, Vol. 8 No. 2, pp. 3-23. https://doi.org/10.1108/96754260680001048Download as .RIS
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