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CSR website disclosure: the influence of the upper echelons

Patricia Everaert (Department of Accounting, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)
Lies Bouten (Department of Finance, Audit and Control, IÉSEG School of Management (LEM-CNRS UMR 9221), Lille, France)
Annelien Baele (Department of Accounting, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 15 March 2019

Issue publication date: 28 May 2019

Abstract

Purpose

Using upper echelons theory (UET), the purpose of this paper is to unravel the influence of a CEO’s ethical ideology on the presence of corporate social responsibility (CSR) disclosure on corporate websites. It also considers the CEO’s perception of the importance of CSR (i.e. the extent of the CEO’s detachment from the stockholder-oriented logic and attachment to the stakeholder-oriented logic).

Design/methodology/approach

First, a survey was sent to CEOs of large unlisted Belgian companies. Its intention was to assess CEOs’ ethical ideology along the idealism and relativism dimensions and their perceptions on the importance of CSR (PRESOR-detachment-from-stockholder view; PRESOR-attachment-to-stakeholder view), and to gather some demographics. Second, a content analysis of corporate websites was conducted so as to classify companies as being either CSR disclosing or non-disclosing. Third, the annual accounts of these corporations were investigated and follow-up phone calls were conducted to obtain data on managerial discretion (MD).

Findings

CEOs’ ethical ideology influences the degree to which they detach from the stockholder-oriented logic and attach to the stakeholder-oriented logic. Moreover, when MD is high, the degree of these CEOs’ attachment to the stakeholder-oriented logic is the factor that influences the presence of CSR disclosure on their corporate websites. Finally, CEO’s idealism indirectly influences the presence of CSR disclosure through the effect of idealism on the degree to which CEOs attach to the stakeholder-oriented logic.

Originality/value

This paper shows that, when MD is high, CEOs’ values and perceptions influence CSR disclosure decisions. This study thereby enhances our knowledge regarding the internal drivers of CSR disclosure practices and offers UET as a lens through which the importance of CEOs’ personal characteristics in the decision-making process might be further explored.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This research project was supported by a BOF research fund of Ghent University and a special research grant from the National Bank of Belgium, which the authors would like to thank. Feedback and/or discussions with François Maon, Phil Shane, Patrick Van Kenhove and Luc Van Liedekerke were very much appreciated, as well as feedback from the participants of the 37th Annual Congress of the European Accounting Association. The authors also wish to thank Lander Bruneel for recoding; and the two anonymous referees and the editor for their constructive comments that significantly improved the paper.

Citation

Everaert, P., Bouten, L. and Baele, A. (2019), "CSR website disclosure: the influence of the upper echelons", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 32 No. 2, pp. 421-455. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-03-2017-2882

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited