The Normativity and Legitimacy of CSR Disclosure: Evidence from France

Journal of Business Ethics 130 (4):789-803 (2015)
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Abstract

In 2001, France became one of the few countries to require corporate social responsibility reporting through its Nouvelles Régulations Économiques #2001-420. However, initial compliance with the statute was low, a factor implying the law lacked normativity. In this exploratory study, we attempt to determine whether there is movement toward normativity by examining the change in CSR disclosure from 2004 in comparison to 2010 for a sample of 81 publicly traded French firms. We measure both the space and the quality of CSR disclosures, including in the latter a measure based on informational quality attributes as discussed by the International Accounting Standards Board, the Financial Accounting Standards Board, and the Global Reporting Initiative. We find significant increases in the space allocated to CSR disclosure, as well as some evidence of increased quality; although the informational quality of the disclosures remains quite low and fewer firms are including negative performance information in their reports. Finally, we document that differences in disclosure space and quality in 2004 appeared to be associated with legitimacy-based variables and that those relations remain largely unchanged in 2010. As such, it appears that the NRE’s goals of increased transparency remain unmet.

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