Social reports in Italian universities: disclosures and preparers’ perspective

Carlotta Del Sordo (University of Bologna, Forli, Italy)
Federica Farneti (University of Bologna, Forli, Italy)
James Guthrie (Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia and Bologna University , Forli, Italy)
Silvia Pazzi (School of Management, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK)
Benedetta Siboni (University of Bologna, Forlì, Italy)

Meditari Accountancy Research

ISSN: 2049-372X

Publication date: 11 April 2016

Abstract

Purpose

Although there is no mandatory requirement for Italian universities to report beyond a financial report, several universities have produced a social report, despite the context of increasing pressure to cut financial resources. This study aims to investigate if Italian state universities produce voluntary social reports and, if so, what they disclose. Also to explore their motivations to do so and the main difficulties encountered.

Design/methodology/approach

Content analysis is applied to the total pool of Italian universities’ social reports obtained. Also, a subsequent online survey was undertaken with preparers of those social reports.

Findings

The findings indicate that a social report is not a common practice in Italian universities. Subsequent online interviews and thematic analysis found that a key individual within the university played a pivotal role in developing a social report. In the pool of reports examined, there were few social and environmental aspects disclosed. Also the respondents to the survey highlighted that the main difficulty in the development of social reports was the lack of systematic collection of non-financial information within the university.

Researchlimitations/implications

The study is limited to the Italian university social reports produced and those answering the online survey.

Originality/value

Most of the prior Italian literature on social reports is normative in nature and focuses on what should be reported, rather than on what was actually reported. This study is an attempt at analysing the pool of Italian universities’ social reports and is useful for understanding how and why organisations voluntarily produce social reports.

Keywords

Citation

Sordo, C., Farneti, F., Guthrie, J., Pazzi, S. and Siboni, B. (2016), "Social reports in Italian universities: disclosures and preparers’ perspective", Meditari Accountancy Research, Vol. 24 No. 1, pp. 91-110. https://doi.org/10.1108/MEDAR-09-2014-0054

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Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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