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Formal corporate social responsibility reporting in Finnish listed companies

Ulla Kotonen

Journal of Applied Accounting Research, 2009, vol. 10, issue 3, 176-207

Abstract: Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to analyse CSR reporting in large Finnish listed companies, focusing on the following questions: what kinds of motives and objectives appear behind CSR reporting, what kinds of documents are used in CSR reporting, and what kind of information related especially to CSR policy, stakeholders, as well as economic, social and environmental responsibilities, is presented? Finally, the idea is to compare large Finnish listed companies' CSR information with corresponding international results. Design/methodology/approach - The study is based on the analysis of qualitative data consisting of formal CSR reports, including annual reports and special CSR reports, of 2006. The empirical analyses are supplemented with interviews with four company representatives and with two auditors. The information of special CSR reports is analysed by using the content method. Findings - Companies understand responsibility as a duty to act responsibly towards their stakeholders and CSR reporting as a response to stakeholders' expectations and demands. The study indicates that especially corporate characteristics such as industry group and internationalization stage as well as general contextual factors such as social and cultural context affect voluntary CSR reporting. It shows that the large Finnish listed companies define corporate social responsibility as being based on Elkington's triple bottom line (TBL) model. In CSR reporting companies follow more or less GRI guidelines. Formal CSR information is presented based on the TBL model but companies emphasize different issues in their reporting. Research limitations/implications - First, the research is based on interpretative understanding and these kinds of analyses are always more or less subjective. Second, the analysis is based on CSR information produced by large Finnish listed companies. Thus, the study does not give an extensive description of the CSR reporting in all Finnish listed companies or in non-listed companies. Third, the research is a cross-sectional study based on CSR information published in one particular year. And fourth, the research data include only certain formal CSR information, not all CSR disclosures. Thereby, the analysis gives a snapshot or a glimpse of Finnish CSR reporting practices. The analysis does not tell anything about history, development or future of CSR reporting practices or anything about other kinds of CSR communication of the large Finnish listed companies. Thus, the reality reconstructed in the study must not be generalized, but used to understand CSR reporting in the context. Originality/value - The paper analyses CSR reporting in large Finnish listed companies, focusing on motives and objectives, documents used, and information related particularly to CSR policy, stakeholders, and economic, social and environmental responsibilities.

Keywords: Corporate image; Social responsibility; Research; Finland (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2009
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