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Mandatory vs voluntary exercise on non-financial reporting: does a normative/coercive isomorphism facilitate an increase in quality?

Jonida Carungu (Guildhall School of Business and Law, London Metropolitan University, London, UK)
Roberto Di Pietra (Department of Business and Law, University of Siena, Siena, Italy)
Matteo Molinari (Department of Business and Law, University of Siena, Siena, Italy and Department of Economics and Management, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy)

Meditari Accountancy Research

ISSN: 2049-372X

Article publication date: 4 November 2020

Issue publication date: 23 June 2021




This paper aims at investigating the quality of non-financial reporting (NFR) in light of Directive no. 2014/95/EU. Specifically, it focuses on the quality of NFR in Italian companies, as required by Legislative Decree no. 254/2016.


The method used to develop the analysis is mainly qualitative. A content analysis of 184 non-financial reports (NFRs) was conducted on a sample of 92 companies that have been previously involved in the process of NFR on a voluntary basis. Then, a longitudinal analysis was carried out to assess the quality of the NFR conducted from a voluntary to a mandatory basis.


This study shows that the quality of NFR does not increase when moving from a voluntary to a mandatory basis, especially for 25% of the companies that publish supplementary sustainability reports and/or plans. This result demonstrates that preparers may perceive mandatory NFR as a comprehensive best practice to adequately report their social, economic and environmental performance.


The contribution of this research is threefold. Firstly, it contributes to the social and environmental accounting literature that focuses on NFR quality assessment. Secondly, it contributes to the literature that emphasizes the role of mimetic, coercive and normative isomorphism mechanisms on accounting systems and reporting practices. Thirdly, it contributes to the research gaps for academics highlighted by previous literature on mandatory corporate reporting as a consequence of normative requirements and on the relationship between regulation and mimetic, coercive and normative isomorphic mechanisms within organizations.



The authors acknowledge the support of Gianni Betti (Full Professor in Economic Statistics at the Department of Economics and Statistics, University of Siena) for his support in the statistical analysis. Moreover, the Authors appreciate the constructive comments received on earlier versions of the paper by the participants during the 8th Workshop on Accounting and Regulation, 27-29 June 2019, Siena (Italy) and the 39th AIDEA National Conference, 12-13 September 2019, Turin (Italy). Finally, we are grateful for the insights and comments and the great support received from the co-Guest Editors, Alessandro Lai and Riccardo Stacchezzini, and the anonymous referees during the reviewing process.

All authors have dedicated the same effort and enthusiasm in conducting this research. Therefore, the authorship list follows an alphabetical order.

The authors received no specific funding for this research.


Carungu, J., Di Pietra, R. and Molinari, M. (2021), "Mandatory vs voluntary exercise on non-financial reporting: does a normative/coercive isomorphism facilitate an increase in quality?", Meditari Accountancy Research, Vol. 29 No. 3, pp. 449-476.



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