Changes in social and environmental reporting practices in an emerging economy (2004–2007): exploring the relevance of stakeholder and legitimacy theories
Mahadeo, JD and Oogarah-Hanuman, V and Soobaroyen, T, Changes in social and environmental reporting practices in an emerging economy (2004-2007): exploring the relevance of stakeholder and legitimacy theories, Accounting Forum, 35, (3) pp. 158-175. ISSN 0155-9982 (2011) [Refereed Article]
We examine social and environmental reporting (SER) practices of listed companies in the island economy of Mauritius. Based on a content analysis of annual reports, quantitative and qualitative changes in SER were analyzed in light of recent developments in corporate governance and with regard to the prevailing social and political contexts of this emerging economy. We find a significant but selective increase in the volume and quality of SER over the period under review (2004–2007). We rely on Suchman’s (1995) conceptualizations of legitimacy to argue that the changes in SER are related to a need for companies to demonstrate an affiliation to pro-social objectives (moral legitimacy) and, to a lesser extent, are motivated by the need to manage specific stakeholders (pragmatic legitimacy). More specifically, the increase in ethical disclosures reflects an attempt at gaining procedural legitimacy in response to criticisms of corruption and unfair/unethical business practices. Furthermore, the increase in social disclosures can primarily be seen as a mechanism to gain consequential legitimacy in response to concerns that local companies are not sufficiently contributing to the country’s social development. We suggest that future empirical research should devote more attention to the specific characteristics of emerging economies (such as levels of corruption and unethical business practices and the level of corporate governance) and examine whether these can explain patterns of corporate SER in a given national context or on a cross-country basis.
social and environmental reporting, emerging economy, legitimacy theory, stakeholder theory