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The use of social media for engaging stakeholders in sustainability reporting

Giacomo Manetti (Department of Economics and Management, University of Florence, Florence, Italy)
Marco Bellucci (Department of Economics and Management, University of Florence, Florence, Italy)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 15 August 2016




The purpose of this paper is to assess if online interaction through social media, particularly Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, represents an effective stakeholder engagement mechanism in order to define the contents of social, environmental, or sustainability reporting (SESR).


After examining 332 worldwide sustainability reports for the year 2013, drawn up according to the guidelines provided by the Global Reporting Initiative, the authors conducted a content analysis on the Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube pages of the organisations who rely on these types of social media. This was done in order to assess the scope of interaction between the organisation and its stakeholders.


The authors found that a small number of organisations use social media to engage stakeholders as a means of defining the contents of SESR, and that the level of interaction is generally low. Rather than assuming a deliberative approach that is aimed at forging a democratic consensus on how to address specific corporate social responsibility or SESR issues, these types of interaction focus on gathering divergent socio-political views in an agonistic perspective.

Research limitations/implications

Further research could complement this exploratory research with statistical analyses. It could focus on how comments/replies by users are used by organisations and examine the impacts of SESR on companies’ performances.


The authors contribute to the literature on social accounting by understanding whether social media can be reliable instruments of stakeholder engagement and by examining the relevance of information that is voluntarily disclosed by corporations in SESR.



The authors would like to thank the team of junior researchers that supported the phase of data collection and data entry of this study, in particular Riccardo Fioretti, Carolina Galli, Zoe Guerrini, Francesco Landro, Giulia Malevolti, and Lara Van Royen. The authors gratefully acknowledge the valuable feedback from AAAJ editorial team and the two blind reviewers. Although the paper is the result of a team effort, Giacomo Manetti can be considered the author of Sections 1 and 2, and Marco Bellucci the author of Section 4; Sections 3 and 5 have been written by both authors.


Manetti, G. and Bellucci, M. (2016), "The use of social media for engaging stakeholders in sustainability reporting", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 29 No. 6, pp. 985-1011.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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