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Ethics disclosure as strategy: a longitudinal case study

Sriyalatha Kumarasinghe (Department of Accountancy and Finance, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)
Indujeeva Keerthilal Peiris (Department of Business and Enterprise, Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, Lower Hutt, New Zealand)
André M. Everett (Department of Management, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)

Meditari Accountancy Research

ISSN: 2049-372X

Article publication date: 4 January 2021

Issue publication date: 21 June 2021

343

Abstract

Purpose

This study investigates how a globally-oriented, developing country enterprise formulates and implements ethics strategies, policies and behaviours with respect to its stakeholders, and how the case company discloses and utilises its ethics strategies, policies and behaviours to gain competitive advantage and create stakeholder value.

Design/methodology/approach

A longitudinal single case study is presented featuring a tea producer and marketer in Sri Lanka, one of the country’s largest exporters, that is targeting a global consumer market. Applying Spiller’s (2000) framework for ethical business practices, this research analyses data collected in a series of interviews in combination with content analysis of company annual reports and sustainability reports covering 2010 to 2019 supplemented by on-site observation.

Findings

Analysis reveals that the company maintains ethical strategies, policies and behaviours with respect to its prominent stakeholders, and strategically discloses those practices. The firm’s proactive disclosures of its business and sustainability ethics practices enabled it to establish and sustain competitive advantage over its competitors. The findings are discussed in light of their theoretical and practical implications, identifying areas for future studies.

Originality/value

This is the first ethics study to include both longitudinal documentary analysis and personal interviews in a single case study based in Sri Lanka. It contributes to discussion regarding balancing ethics and sustainability as parts of business strategies for reputation building and value creation through identifying salient stakeholders and ethics-based non-financial disclosures by contemporary business organisations.

Keywords

Citation

Kumarasinghe, S., Peiris, I.K. and Everett, A.M. (2021), "Ethics disclosure as strategy: a longitudinal case study", Meditari Accountancy Research, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 294-323. https://doi.org/10.1108/MEDAR-01-2020-0669

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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