Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 151, Issue 2, pp 563–578 | Cite as

Trends and Drivers in CSR Disclosure: A Focus on Reporting Practices in the Automotive Industry

  • Tiziana Russo-SpenaEmail author
  • Marco Tregua
  • Alessandra De Chiara


This work focuses on corporate social responsibility (CSR) disclosure practices of multinational corporations. Based on a longitudinal study of CSR reports of companies operating in the automotive industry, the paper offers a detailed study of how disclosure practices are changing and which principles and approaches influence and drive the development of such disclosure. Based on a four-year report-based study, the findings enable us to identify three main trends in the CSR disclosure strategy of automotive firms. First, in line with the mainstream CSR literature, the present study confirms the trend towards the increasing environmental and social accountability. Second, it adds evidence to the emerging debate regarding the harmonization and standardization of reporting and discusses this aspect by mentioning the standards as exerting some normative pressures within the sector. Finally, it provides evidence on specific links emerging between issues and actors. The implications of this evidence contribute to opening up the debate on CSR disclosure to the possibility of combining the institutional lens with a strategic approach that captures the materiality considerations of CSR disclosure.


CSR disclosure CSR report Institutional theory Strategic approach Materiality 


  1. Abrahamson, M. (1983). Social research methods. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  2. Adams, C. A. (2004). The ethical, social and environmental reporting performance portrayal gap. Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, 17(5), 731–757.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aerts, W., Cormier, D., & Magnan, M. (2006). Intra-industry imitation in corporate environmental reporting: An international perspective. Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, 25(3), 299–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arena, C., Bozzolan, S., & Michelon, G. (2014). Environmental reporting: Transparency to stakeholders or stakeholders’ manipulation? An analysis of disclosure tone and the role of board of directors. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 22(6), 346–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Balzarova, M. A., & Castka, P. (2012). Stakeholders’ influence and contribution to social standards development: The case of multiple stakeholder approach to ISO 26000 development. Journal of Business Ethics, 111(2), 265–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barnett, M. L., & Salomon, R. M. (2012). Does it pay to be really good? Addressing the shape of the relationship between social and financial performance. Strategic Management Journal, 33, 1304–1320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Basu, K., & Palazzo, G. (2008). Corporate social responsibility: A process model of sensemaking. Academy of Management Review, 33(1), 122–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Beck, A. C., Campbell, D., & Shrives, P. J. (2010). Content analysis in environmental reporting research: Enrichment and rehearsal of the method in a British-German context. British Accounting Review, 42(3), 207–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Berelson, B. (1952). Content analysis in communications research. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  10. Bondy, K., Moon, J., & Matten, D. (2012). An institution of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in multi-national corporations (MNCs): Form and implications. Journal of Business Ethics, 111(2), 281–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bouten, L., Everaert, P., Liedekerke, L. V., Moor, L. D., & Christiaens, J. (2011). Corporate social responsibility reporting: A comprehensive picture? Accounting Forum, 35, 187–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Branco, M., & Rodrigues, L. L. (2006). Corporate social responsibility and resource based perspectives. Journal of Business Ethics, 69(2), 111–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Branco, M., & Rodrigues, L. L. (2008). Social responsibility disclosure; a study of proxies for the public visibility of Portuguese banks. British Accounting Review, 40(2), 161–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Brown, S., & Hillegeist, S. (2007). How disclosure quality affects the level of information asymmetry. Review of Accounting Studies, 12(2), 443–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Brown, H. S., de Jong, M., & Lessidrenska, T. (2009). The rise of the global reporting initiative: A case of institutional entrepreneurship. Environmental Politics, 18(2), 182–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Buck, B., Espinach, L., & Söderberg, S. (2014). GRI G4 guidelines and ISO 26000:2010. How to use the GRI G4 guidelines and ISO 26000 in conjunction,
  17. Campbell, D. (2004). A longitudinal and cross-sectional analysis of environmental disclosure in UK companies: A research note. British Accounting Review, 36, 107–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Campbell, J. L. (2007). Why would corporations behave in socially responsible ways? An institutional theory of corporate social responsibility. Academy of Management Review, 32(2), 948–967.Google Scholar
  19. Campopiano, G., & De Massis, A. (2015). Corporate social responsibility reporting: A content analysis in family and non-family firms. Journal of Business Ethics, 129, 511–534.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Carroll, C. E., & Einwiller, S. A. (2014). Disclosure alignment and transparency signaling in CSR reports. In R. P. Hart (Ed.), Communication and language analysis in the corporate world (pp. 249–270). Austin: University of Texas.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Chauvey, J., Giordano-Spring, S., Cho, C. H., & Patten, D. M. (2015). The normativity and legitimacy of CSR disclosure: Evidence from France. Journal of Business Ethics, 130(4), 789–803.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Chen, S., & Bouvain, P. (2009). Is corporate responsibility converging? A comparison of corporate responsibility reporting in the USA, UK, Australia, and Germany. Journal of Business Ethics, 87(1), 299–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Clarkson, P. M., Fang, X., Li, Y., & Richardson, G. (2013). The relevance of environmental disclosures: Are such disclosures incrementally informative? Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, 32(5), 410–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Deegan, C. (2002). The legitimizing effect of social and environmental disclosures: A theoretical foundation. Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, 15(3), 282–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Deegan, C., & Blomquist, C. (2005). Stakeholder influence on corporate reporting: An exploration of the interaction between the World Wide Fund for Nature and the Australian minerals industry. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 31(4–5), 343–372.Google Scholar
  26. Deegan, C., & Rankin, M. (1997). The materiality of environmental information to users of annual reports. Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, 10(4), 562–583.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Deegan, C., Rankin, M., & Voght, P. (2000). Firms’ disclosure reactions to major social incidents: Australian evidence. Accounting Forum, 24(1), 101–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Dhaliwal, D. S., Li, O. Z., Tsang, A., & Yang, Y. G. (2011). Voluntary nonfinancial disclosure and the cost of equity capital: The initiation of corporate social responsibility reporting. The Accounting Review, 86(1), 59–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Du, S., Bhattacharya, C. B., & Sen, S. (2010). Maximizing business returns to corporate social responsibility (CSR): The role of CSR communication. International Journal of Management Reviews, 12(1), 8–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Eccles, R. G., Krzus, M. P., & Serafeim, G. (2011). Market interest in non financial information. Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, 23(4), 113–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Fortanier, F., Kolk, A., & Pinkse, J. (2011). Harmonization in CSR reporting. Management International Review, 51(5), 665–696.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Gallego, Á. I., Lorenzo, J. M. P., & Sánchez, I. M. G. (2011). Corporate social responsibility and innovation: A resource based theory. Management Decision, 49(10), 1709–1727.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Gossling, T., & Vocht, C. (2007). Social role conceptions and CSR policy success. Journal of Business Ethics, 74, 363–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Gray, R., & Milne, M. J. (2007). Future prospects for corporate sustainability reporting. In B. O’Dwyer, J. Bebbington, & J. Unerman (Eds.), Sustainability accounting and accountability (pp. 184–207). London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Gray, R., Owen, D., & Maunders, K. (1987). Corporate social reporting: Accounting and accountability. London: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  36. Gray, R., Owen, D., & Adams, C. A. (1996). Accounting and accountability: Changes and challenges in corporate social and environmental reporting. London: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  37. Gray, R., Javad, H., Power, M., & Sinclair, C. D. (2001). Social and environmental disclosure and corporate characteristics: A research note and extension. Journal of Business Finance and Accounting, 28, 327–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Guenster, N., Bauer, R., Derwall, J., & Koedijk, K. (2011). The economic value of corporate eco-efficiency. European Financial Management, 17, 679–704.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Guthrie, J., & Abeysekera, I. (2006). Content analysis of social, environmental reporting: What is new? Journal of Human Resource Costing & Accounting, 10(2), 114–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hahn, R., & Weidtmann, C. (2016). Transnational governance, deliberative democracy, and the legitimacy of ISO 26000 analyzing the case of a global multistakeholder process. Business and Society, 55(1), 90–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Jones, T. M., Felps, W., & Bigley, G. A. (2007). Ethical theory and stakeholder-related decisions: The role of stakeholder culture. Academy of Management Review, 32(1), 137–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Jose, A., & Lee, S. M. (2007). Environmental reporting of global corporations: A content analysis based on website disclosures. Journal of Business Ethics, 72(4), 307–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Krippendorff, K. (2004). Content analysis: An introduction to its methodology (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  44. Layder, D. (1998). Sociological practice: Linking theory and sociological research. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Levy, D. L., Brown, H. S., & de Jong, M. (2010). The contested politics of corporate governance: The case of the global reporting initiative. Business and Society, 49(1), 88–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lyon, T. P., & Maxwell, J. W. (2011). Greenwash: Corporate environmental disclosure under threat of audit. Journal of Economics and Management Strategy, 20(1), 3–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Mahoney, S. L., Thorne, L., Lianna, C., & La Gore, W. (2013). A research note on standalone corporate social responsibility reports: Signaling or greenwashing? Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 24, 350–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Maon, F., Lindgreen, A., & Swaen, V. (2010). Organizational stages and cultural phases: A critical review and a consolidative model of corporate social responsibility development. International Journal of Management Reviews, 12(1), 20–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. McElhaney, K. (2009). A strategic approach to corporate social responsibility. Leader to Leader, 52, 30–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. McKinsey & Company Inc. (2013). The road to 2020 and beyond: What’s driving the global automotive industry?
  51. Morhardt, J. E. (2010). Corporate social responsibility and sustainability reporting on the internet. Business Strategy and the Environment, 19, 436–452.Google Scholar
  52. Nikolaeva, R., & Bicho, M. (2011). The role of institutional and reputational factors in the voluntary adoption of corporate social responsibility reporting standards. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 39, 136–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. O’Donovan, G. (2002). Environmental disclosures in the annual report: Extending the applicability and predictive power of legitimacy theory. Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, 15(3), 344–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Öberseder, M., Schlegelmilch, B. B., & Murphy, P. E. (2013). CSR practices and consumer perceptions. Journal of Business Research, 66(10), 1839–1851.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. OECD. (2011). OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises. Paris: OECD. doi: 10.1787/9789264115415-en.Google Scholar
  56. Pérez-López, D., Moreno-Romero, A., & Barkemeyer, R. (2013). Exploring the relationship between sustainability reporting and sustainability management practices. Business Strategy and the Environment, 24(8), 720–734.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Phillips, R. A. (1997). Stakeholder theory and a principle of fairness. Business Ethics Quarterly, 7(1), 51–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Phillips, R. A. (2003). Stakeholder legitimacy. Business Ethics Quarterly, 13(1), 25–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Podnar, K. (2008). Communicating corporate social responsibility. Journal of Marketing Communication, 14(2), 75–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Porter, M. E., & Kramer, M. R. (2006). The link between competitive advantage and corporate social responsibility. Harvard Business Review, 84(12), 78–92.Google Scholar
  61. Prado-Lorenzo, J. M., & Garcia-Sanchez, I. M. (2010). The role of the board of directors in disseminating relevant information on greenhouse gases. Journal of Business Ethics, 97(3), 391–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Russo Spena, T., & De Chiara, A. (2012). CSR, innovation strategy and supply chain management: Toward an integrated perspective. International Journal of Technology Management, 58, 83–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Schaltegger, S., & Burritt, R. L. (2010). Sustainability accounting for companies: Catchphrase or decision support for business leaders? Journal of World Business, 45(2010), 375–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Schlie, E., & Yip, G. (2000). Regional follows global: Strategy mixes in the world automotive industry. European Management Journal, 18(4), 343–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Scott, W. R. (1995). Institutions and organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  66. Silver, C., & Lewins, A. (2014). Using software in qualitative research: A step-by-step guide (2nd ed.). London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Suchman, M. C. (1995). Managing legitimacy: Strategic and institutional approaches. Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 571–610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Sutantoputra, A. W. (2009). Social disclosure rating system for assessing firms’ CSR reports. Corporate Communications, 14(1), 34–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Swaen, V., & Vanhamme, J. (2005). The use of corporate social responsibility arguments in communication campaigns: Does source credibility matter? Advances in Consumer Research, 32(1), 590–591.Google Scholar
  70. Swanson, D. L. (1999). Toward an integrative theory of business and society: A research strategy for corporate social performance. The Academy of Management Review, 24(3), 506–521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Tesch, R. (1990). Qualitative research: Analysis types and software tools. New York: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  72. Underwood, R. L. (2012). Automotive foreign direct investment in the United States: Economic and market consequences of globalization. Business Horizons, 55(5), 463–474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Unerman, J. (2000). Reflections on quantification in corporate social reporting content analysis. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 13(5), 667–680.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Unerman, J. (2007). Stakeholder engagement and dialogue. In J. Unerman, J. Bebbington, & B. O’Dwyer (Eds.), Sustainability accounting and accountability (pp. 86–103). London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. van de Ven, B. (2008). An ethical framework for the marketing of corporate social responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics, 82(2), 339–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Weber, R. P. (1990). Basic content analysis (No. 49). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  77. Xueming, L., & Bhattachary, C. B. (2006). Corporate social responsibility, customer satisfaction, and market value. Journal of Marketing, 70, 1–18.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tiziana Russo-Spena
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marco Tregua
    • 1
  • Alessandra De Chiara
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Economics, Management and InstitutionsFederico II University of NaplesNaplesItaly
  2. 2.Department of Human and Social SciencesUniversity of Naples, “L’Orientale”NaplesItaly

Personalised recommendations