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Social contagion and the institutionalisation of GRI-based sustainability reporting practices

Ameeta Jain (Department of Finance, Faculty of Business and Law, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia)
Muhammad Azizul Islam (Business School, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK)
Monica Keneley (Department of Finance, Faculty of Business and Law, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia)
Monika Kansal (School of Business and Law, Central Queensland University, Cairns, Australia)

Meditari Accountancy Research

ISSN: 2049-372X

Article publication date: 10 June 2021

Issue publication date: 9 September 2022

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Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to investigate the adoption and diffusion of Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)-based sustainability reporting practices within the global financial services sector.

Design/methodology/approach

The approach draws on the sociological construct of social contagion theory (SCT) to explain the drivers of diffusion of GRI-based sustainability reporting. Based on a longitudinal study of GRI adoption over a period from 2000 to 2016, thematic content analysis of sustainability reports and media articles was used to refine information gathered that related to nature and spread of GRI-based sustainability practices within the global financial services sector.

Findings

This study finds that the early adopters of GRI-based sustainability reporting and the accompanying media attention influenced the institutional diffusion of GRI-based reporting in the financial services sector. This growth was isomorphic as companies copied best practice models to reduce uncertainty and maintain legitimacy.

Originality/value

This paper focuses on the institutional diffusion of sustainability reporting practices within the global financial sector. It explores the notion of social contagion as an institutional dynamic to understand the drivers for the adoption and diffusion of GRI-based sustainability reporting across national borders. In doing so, the study contributes to the accounting literature on diffusion of innovations in reporting practice, but also, more generally, to the field of diffusion of new ideas in organisations using the unique approach of SCT.

Keywords

Citation

Jain, A., Islam, M.A., Keneley, M. and Kansal, M. (2022), "Social contagion and the institutionalisation of GRI-based sustainability reporting practices", Meditari Accountancy Research, Vol. 30 No. 5, pp. 1291-1308. https://doi.org/10.1108/MEDAR-06-2020-0917

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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