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Case Study Analysis of Sustainability Reporting of an Agri-Food Giant

Irena Jindrichovska (), Dana Kubickova () and Mihaela Mocanu ()
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Mihaela Mocanu: Department of Accounting and Auditing, Bucharest University of Economic Studies, 010374 Bucharest, Romania

Sustainability, 2020, vol. 12, issue 11, 1-1

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to contribute to the discussion of how large companies in the agri-food sector cope with the growing pressure to perform sustainably and how they disclose sustainability-related information to their stakeholders. To achieve this goal, we used the case study method. We analyzed Cargill’s specific approach to sustainability reporting, who is a company with a 150-year history and worldwide activities. We used reports from the year 2014 and 2018. The core of our analysis lies in the content analysis of the text using 39 corporate social responsibility (CSR) keywords (Cohen, 2010). The frequency of keywords related to the three aspects of CSR was measured to reveal the areas that the company considers most important and those upon which it draws the attention of users. To complement this analysis, we then investigated the linguistic features of Cargill’s sustainability reports, which employed the LIWC2015 program (LIWC–Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count) and focused on four features of disclosure (analytical thinking, clout, authenticity, and emotional tone). The findings of our research confirmed that the dominant companies in the agri-food business have reacted to challenges of their social environment and changed their attitude to keep up with the current stage of social development. Sustainability reporting is elaborated and covers all aspects of the company’s activity in sufficient detail. This attitude developed continuously despite it not always being appreciated by Cargill’s stakeholders. The main limitation of our study lies in the method which did not allow even with the greatest effort to eliminate subjectivity. The other limitation relates to the specific features of the company and its position within the world economy and also to its long history, which determined the form and extent of reporting. However, our findings are indicative and inspiring for future research. Our results contribute to the debate concerning the form, content, and evolution of sustainability reporting. Moreover, our results can be used in practice by corporate management, when designing their marketing strategy, plans, and programs. We claim that the biggest challenge for big multinationals like Cargill in these days is to effectively protect the nature and respect the law in jurisdictions where there is traditionally low incentive to obey the rules because of poor regulations and many opportunities to misuse their dominant position.

Keywords: sustainability report; CSR; content analysis; agriculture; agri-food industry; local community (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 O13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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