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Emerging phenomenon of corporate social and environmental reporting in China

Shengli Yu (SHU-UTS SILC Business School, Shanghai University, Shanghai, China)
Anna Lee Rowe (Graduate School of Business, Curtin University, Perth, Australia)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 3 July 2017




The purpose of this paper is to explore the motivations underpinning recent evolving corporate social and environmental reporting (CSER) among enterprises in China through the lenses of senior managers.


Using the interpretive tenets of engagement research, semi-structured in-depth interviews were adopted to explore the perceptions of senior managers from 21 large companies in various industries. The aim is to make sense of the emerging CSER phenomenon occurring in the field through engagement, observation and penetrating interviews.


The findings identify the main enablers driving CSER in China as: regulations and government influence; management awareness; benefits to company image; peer pressure/reporting by peers and public pressure on controversial companies. Guided by a system-based theoretical framework in terms of motivations for CSER, this study offers insights into the effectiveness of using widely adopted Western-based theoretical approaches in a Chinese context where companies operate against a different socio-economic, political, regulatory and cultural backdrop.

Research limitations/implications

The deep-rooted face (Mianzi) culture has the potential to influence managers to portray a positive image about their companies and themselves.


This engagement-based study is one of the few initiatives exploring managerial perceptions of CSER in China that adds to the scant literature pertaining to rich “emic” data in accounting, encompassing cultural influence by applying systems-oriented theoretical framework. The stimulus for CSER identified are useful for regulators and organizations to better comprehend how to set effective policies that promote CSER and fit the distinctive institutional characteristics of China.



Yu, S. and Rowe, A.L. (2017), "Emerging phenomenon of corporate social and environmental reporting in China", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 8 No. 3, pp. 386-415.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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