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Motivations for corporate social and environmental reporting: New Zealand evidence

Stevie Dobbs (Department of Accounting, AUT University Auckland, New Zealand)
Chris van Staden (Department of Accounting, AUT University Auckland, New Zealand)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 5 September 2016

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to investigate corporate motivations for voluntarily reporting social and environmental information in New Zealand. The approach used in this study also gives the opportunity to gain insights into the internal systems and views of companies and allows the authors to make better judgements of the intentions of companies in undertaking corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting.

Design/methodology/approach

A survey is used and then extended to match corporate survey responses with content analysis results of actual company reporting. The results of the survey and the content analysis are examined both individually and collectively to gather more context for corporate motivations.

Findings

The authors find that community concerns and shareholder rights were the most important factors that influenced the companies’ decision to report. The driving force for a sustainability agenda within these companies is usually a member of senior management. The authors also find that reporting frameworks and highly formalised internal systems were not frequently used, external assurance of CSR reporting was lacking and there were low levels of stakeholder engagement. A commitment to reporting comprehensive CSR disclosures and accepting responsibility towards a range of stakeholders were, therefore, not in evidence.

Research limitations/implications

For researchers, the value is in further revising analysis techniques and expanding existing research methods used in this area. The study brings together important CSR topics from across the literature, including reporting levels and characteristics, internal CSR systems, CSR assurance and stakeholder engagement, to investigate the motivation for CSR reporting.

Practical implications

The results suggest that New Zealand companies are not currently fully committed to social and environmental reporting and that CSR reporting is most likely used to create the impression of being concerned about sustainability to increase legitimacy with stakeholders and society. The results highlight the importance of having formalised systems to ensure that disclosures are accurate and comprehensive.

Originality/value

The results contribute to the literature by providing a current view of the motivations for reporting companies to report or not report. The approach used gives the opportunity to gain insights into the internal systems and views of companies and allows the authors to make better judgements of the intentions of companies in undertaking CSR reporting.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank participants at the Centre for Social and Environmental Accounting Research 2011 Australasian Conference in Tasmania and participants at research seminar presentations at Macquarie University, the University of Canterbury, the University of Waikato and Aston University for their useful comments.

Citation

Dobbs, S. and van Staden, C. (2016), "Motivations for corporate social and environmental reporting: New Zealand evidence", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 449-472. https://doi.org/10.1108/SAMPJ-08-2015-0070

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited