Harmonization and differences in CSR reporting of US and German companies

Sabine Einwiller (Department of Communication, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria)
Christopher Ruppel (Department of Communication, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria)
Alexandra Schnauber (Department of Communication, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Publication date: 4 April 2016

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to extend the theoretical discussion and empirical evidence on harmonization as well as differences in CSR reporting, and to dismantle inconsistencies owing to the idiosyncratic methods applied in previous studies. While institutional and cultural differences suggest country-of-origin effects, the proliferation of global standards for CSR reporting is expected to promote harmonization.

Design/methodology/approach

Based on a literature review hypotheses concerning harmonization and country-of-origin effects were derived. Reports were content analyzed using the software Leximancer. Harmonization effects were examined by comparing reports of companies that adhered to the standards by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and UN Global Compact and those that did not declare to do so. Country-of-origin effects were explored by comparing reports of German and US multinational enterprises (MNEs).

Findings

The study reveals that there are comparatively greater similarities between reports issued by MNEs that adhere to global standards, especially GRI. Results also reveal some country-of-origin effects. While German MNEs report more on environmental issues, US MNEs have a stronger focus on society, especially the community.

Originality/value

The study contributes to the limited evidence for harmonization in CSR reporting due to the adherence to global reporting standards. Because comparability is important for many stakeholders addressed by the reports the findings are valuable for stakeholder management, but also for the initiatives who aim to enhance transparency and comparability.

Keywords

Citation

Einwiller, S., Ruppel, C. and Schnauber, A. (2016), "Harmonization and differences in CSR reporting of US and German companies", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 230-245. https://doi.org/10.1108/CCIJ-09-2014-0062

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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