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An exploratory analysis of managerial perceptions of social and environmental reporting in China: Evidence from state-owned enterprises in Beijing

Na Zhao (School of Management, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, UK)
Dennis M Patten (Department of Accounting, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, USA)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 7 March 2016

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to determine the perceptions of managers in China with respect to the pressures for, and the purposes of, social and environmental reporting (SER) in the Chinese context.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors interviewed 14 managers from nine different state-owned enterprises, all headquartered in Beijing. Interviews were conducted during 2009, the height of the period of growth in standalone corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting in China. The authors assess the perceptions of the managers from a neo-institutional perspective.

Findings

The findings indicate that, similar to reporting in more Western economies, managers perceive that a variety of coercive, normative and mimetic pressures interplay to influence SER in the Chinese context. The managers perceive peer institutions as exerting the greatest pressures for reporting and, surprisingly, indicate that the government, rather than exerting coercive pressures for SER, instead is seen as playing a facilitating role. The findings also reveal that the managers almost uniformly see the purpose of the reporting as a tool of image enhancement, particularly with respect to the general public. However, in contrast to studies of organizational response to institutional change in other settings, the authors find little non-conformity.

Research limitations/implications

The findings suggest neo-institutional arguments for CSR reporting appear to hold, even in China’s socialist market economy.

Practical implications

The finding that managers see CSR reporting as being largely about image enhancement may help to explain the low quality of disclosure documented in other studies.

Social implications

Improving CSR disclosure in China would appear to require more mandated pressure from, particularly, governmental powers.

Originality/value

This is the first study to explore via in-depth interviews the perceptions of managers in China to the evolving practice of standalone CSR reporting.

Keywords

Citation

Zhao, N. and Patten, D.M. (2016), "An exploratory analysis of managerial perceptions of social and environmental reporting in China: Evidence from state-owned enterprises in Beijing", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 80-98. https://doi.org/10.1108/SAMPJ-10-2014-0063

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited