To read this content please select one of the options below:

Social report innovation: evidence from a major Italian bank 2007-2012

Ann Martin-Sardesai (Department of Accounting, Economics, Finance and Property, Central Queensland University, Sydney, Australia)
James Guthrie (Macquarie Business School, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia)

Meditari Accountancy Research

ISSN: 2049-372X

Article publication date: 30 August 2019

Issue publication date: 30 August 2019




The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, it traces the development of social and environmental disclosure (SED) by identifying and reporting what national and international guidelines aligned to the voluntary disclosures of a major Italian case study organisation, a Bank. It will address the gap in relation to empirical SED studies in banking industries by reviewing in detail the case study Bank’s social report, for the period 2007 to 2012, thus giving insights into the phases of the SED journey. Second, the paper assesses how the social reports have changed over time and identifies the reasons for the change in form and content of disclosure over the period. As a rapidly developing accounting regulatory arena, studies of SED have the potential to examine many aspects of the development of accounting regulation.


The paper develops a theoretically informed analysis to track the history of social reports using the Idea Journey framework. The paper undertakes a content analysis of the Bank’s social reports to gain an understanding how and why the changes in social reports occurred during the period. Data sources for the study included historical data from academic literature, policy documents alongside the 2006 version of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the 2008 GRI Financial Services Sector Supplements.


The findings reveal that the Bank’s social report was aligned to a variety of national and international institution’s directives and guidelines. It identifies the various elements that were at play in the preparation of the social report. The paper provides useful insights for academics, regulators and reporting organisations and highlights the need for a better understanding of social reporting practices, an antecedent to integrated reporting and the European directive and now regulation for non-financial information.

Research limitations/implications

This study provides a foundation for future research into the practices of Italian companies who produce integrated report and social and environmental reporting generally in light of the introduction of legislation mandating non-financial reporting.


The paper helps inform improvements in research, policy and practice by providing rich information in the stages in the development of social report, which has received limited attention in the extant literature. It also builds on innovation literature showing how the idea journey framework can be used to shape accounting research.



This paper is an outcome of Sara Garvani’s Masters’ thesis outlined as follows: Social report practice: evidence from a major Italian bank, Tesi di laurea in rendicontazione sociale, Masterr, Bologna University 2014. The paper also benefited from the reviewers comments and feedback from Meditari Accountancy Research European Conference and Doctoral Colloquium, Bologna University, 2-3 July, 2015. The details of the paper presented at the conference included Garavini, S., Sangiorgi, D. and Guthrie, J. (2015), “Social report disclosures: performance indicators evidence of change from a major Italian bank”, Meditari Accountancy Research European Conference and Doctoral Colloquium, Bologna University, 2-3 July.


Martin-Sardesai, A. and Guthrie, J. (2019), "Social report innovation: evidence from a major Italian bank 2007-2012", Meditari Accountancy Research, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 72-88.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles