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Social reports of an Italian provincial government: a longitudinal analysis

Federica Farneti (University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy)
James Guthrie (Department of Accounting and Corporate Governance, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia)
Marcello Canetto (Monsanto, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Meditari Accountancy Research

ISSN: 2049-372X

Article publication date: 15 July 2019

Issue publication date: 22 August 2019




This paper aims to examine the non-financial information disclosed in social reports by an Italian provincial government over time to determine its relevance, contribution and evolution.


Through a case study analysis, the authors examine 10 years of social reports by one “best practice” Italian provincial government. The authors use content analysis to quantify the level of social and environmental disclosures and use a coding instrument based on the GRI guidelines. The authors use legitimacy theory as a framework.


The level of disclosure increased over the 10-year period, and the type of disclosures became more detailed. However, many of the economic, social and environmental elements set out in the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines were not disclosed. Moreover, the social report was contingent on a few key factors. The authors find that there has been a decline in interest in social reports by local governments in Italy, suggesting that voluntary disclosure was perhaps a fad that no longer is of interest in Italian local government.

Research limitations/implications

This research is one case study so the findings are not generalisable. The findings suggest that there is a need for regulation in non-financial information disclosures, as the disclosures in the case study organisation were very much at the discretion of the organisation. This has implications for policymakers.


Unlike prior studies, this study takes a longitudinal approach to voluntary disclosure of non-financial information and focusses on the under-explored context of public sector organisations.



The authors would like to acknowledge research assistance by Fiona Crawford of Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.


Farneti, F., Guthrie, J. and Canetto, M. (2019), "Social reports of an Italian provincial government: a longitudinal analysis", Meditari Accountancy Research, Vol. 27 No. 4, pp. 580-612.



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