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Institutionalizing corporate social responsibility disclosure: Historical webpages of the Fortune global 500 companies, 1997–2009

Enying Zheng, Wenjie Liao, Yan Xing and Jiajia Zheng

Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 2023, vol. 30, issue 2, 661-676

Abstract: Management and organization scholarships have paid increasing attention to corporate social responsibility (CSR). Less is known about the historical processes leading to the institutionalization of CSR reporting. We bridge the gap by coding and analyzing a digital archive of multinational enterprises' historical websites between 1997 and 2009. Combining in‐depth case studies of detailed environmental disclosure histories of three companies with quantitative summaries of 263 such companies, we find that these companies learned to define the CSR term and adjust their disclosing behaviors gradually, from ad hoc mentioning of idiosyncratic themes to disclosing proliferating themes, often in the dedicated separate website section. Accompanying this change was the growth of global initiatives such as Global Compact and Global Reporting Initiatives and their disclosure guidelines. These findings not only illuminate a historical perspective but also epitomize the dialectical relationship between business and institutional pressures.

Date: 2023
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