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A research note on standalone corporate social responsibility reports: Signaling or greenwashing?

Lois S. Mahoney, Linda Thorne, Lianna Cecil and William LaGore

CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES ON ACCOUNTING, 2013, vol. 24, issue 4, 350-359

Abstract: Over the past two decades, more and more U.S. firms are voluntarily issuing costly standalone Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Reports. Nevertheless, firms’ motivations for issuing standalone CSR Reports are not clear. In this paper, we consider two different explanations: signaling and greenwashing. The first explanation, signaling, proposes that firms use standalone CSR Reports as a signal of their superior commitment to CSR, which suggests firms with stronger social and environmental records will be more likely to issue standalone CSR Reports as compared to those without. The second explanation, greenwashing, proposes that firms use standalone CSR Reports to pose as “good” corporate citizens even when they do not have stronger social and environmental records. To provide insight into these explanations we compare the CSR performance scores of firms that issue CSR reports to those firms that do not. We control for firm size, leverage, profitability and industry. We find that firms that voluntarily issue standalone CSR Reports generally have higher CSR performance scores, which suggests that firms are using voluntary CSR Reports to publicize stronger social and environmental records to stakeholders.

Keywords: Environmental; Social; Sustainability; Environnemental; Social; Développement durable; 环境的; 社会的; 可持续; Ambiental; Social; Sostenibilidad (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2013
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