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Defining CSR disclosure quality: a review and synthesis of the accounting literature

Andrew C. Stuart (Department of Accounting and Business Law, Suffolk University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Stephen H. Fuller (Department of Accounting and Business Law, Suffolk University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Nicole M. Heron (Department of Accounting and Business Law, Suffolk University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Tracey J. Riley (Department of Accounting and Business Law, Suffolk University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

Journal of Accounting Literature

ISSN: 0737-4607

Article publication date: 8 November 2022

Issue publication date: 12 January 2023

438

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to review and synthesize the corporate social responsibility (CSR) disclosure literature in order to (1) develop a comprehensive definition of disclosure quality; (2) review the evolution of disclosure quality proxies used by accounting researchers; (3) describe the antecedents to disclosure quality; (4) describe the outcomes of disclosure quality; and (5) identify gaps in the current literature and offer suggestions for future research.

Design/methodology/approach

This study conducted a systematic review capturing articles examining CSR disclosure quality. The researchers first searched EBSCO, identifying all relevant articles by searching for “corporate social responsibility,” “CSR,” “ESG” and “sustainability reporting” anywhere in the article. Then, the results were filtered to focus on 23 of the most prominent accounting journals. The search resulted in 592 articles which were individually reviewed for relevance to the authors’ review. This study includes all articles that examine disclosure and provide insight into elements that influence disclosure quality or provide evidence of the effects of disclosure quality on user decision-making.

Findings

It is found that a comprehensive definition of CSR disclosure quality has yet to be developed and that proxies for CSR disclosure quality have evolved over time. This study synthesizes the literature on the antecedents of CSR disclosure quality, and how CSR disclosure quality affects users' decision-making and related outcomes. Overall, the review of this study suggests that assurance and a number of corporate features have important effects on disclosure quality. Also, high-quality disclosures are positively associated with many benefits to market participants.

Originality/value

This study complements Huang and Watson's (2015) CSR literature review by comprehensively reviewing and synthesizing the CSR disclosure quality literature that was only emerging when their review was published. Importantly, this study contributes to the CSR disclosure literature by developing a comprehensive definition of CSR disclosure quality that is grounded in the accounting literature and aligned with current frameworks.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors thank the editor, Tom Smith, and an anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments and suggestions. This paper is derived from part of Andrew Stuart’s dissertation at Bentley University. Andrew Stuart would like to thank members of his dissertation committee, Jean C. Bedard (Chair), Cynthia Clark and Wendy Green. The authors would also like to thank Anne Schnader for her thoughtful comments.

Citation

Stuart, A.C., Fuller, S.H., Heron, N.M. and Riley, T.J. (2023), "Defining CSR disclosure quality: a review and synthesis of the accounting literature", Journal of Accounting Literature, Vol. 45 No. 1, pp. 1-47. https://doi.org/10.1108/JAL-06-2022-0067

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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