Voluntary corporate social responsibility disclosure and religion

Paul A. Griffin (University of California. Davis, Davis, California, USA)
Estelle Y. Sun (Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Publication date: 5 March 2018



This study examines the relation between voluntary corporate social responsibility (CSR) disclosure and the local religious norms of firms’ stakeholders. Little is known about how these local norms (measured at the county level) affect firms’ disclosure practices and firm value, especially voluntary disclosure on climate change and environmental and social responsibility.


Poisson regression models test for a significant relation between firms’ voluntary CSR disclosure intensity and the local religious norms of firms’ stakeholders. Also, an event study tests whether the local religious norms affect investment returns. The data analyzed are extracted from the archive of CSRwire, a prominent news organization that distributes CSR news to investors and the public worldwide.


The study finds that firms in high adherence (high churchgoer) locations disclose CSR activities less frequently, and firms in high affiliation (a high proportion of non-evangelical Christian churchgoers) locations disclose CSR activities more frequently. The study also finds that managers make firm-value-increasing CSR disclosure decisions that cater to the religious and social norms of the local community.

Practical implications

The results imply that managers self-identify with the local religious norms of stakeholders and appropriately disclose less about CSR activities when religious adherence is high and when religious affiliation (the ratio of non-evangelicals to evangelical Christians) is low. The authors find this noteworthy because religious bodies often call for greater CSR involvement and disclosure. Yet, at the firm level, it would appear that local community religious norms also prevail, as it is shown that they significantly explain firms’ CSR disclosure behavior, implying that managers cater to local religious norms in their disclosure decisions.

Social implications

The findings suggest that managers vary the timing and intensity of voluntary CSR disclosure consistent with stakeholders’ local religious and social norms and that it would be costly and inefficient if the firms were to expand CSR disclosure without considering the religious norms of their local community.

Originality value

This is the first large-sample study to show that local religious norms affect CSR disclosure behavior. The study makes use of a unique and novel data set obtained exclusively from CSRwire.



Griffin, P. and Sun, E. (2018), "Voluntary corporate social responsibility disclosure and religion", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 63-94. https://doi.org/10.1108/SAMPJ-02-2017-0014

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