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The ethical, social and environmental reporting-performance portrayal gap

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The purpose of this article is twofold. First, it assesses in detail the extent to which corporate reporting on ethical, social and environmental issues reflects corporate performance in case study company Alpha. This "reporting-performance" portrayal gap is a key measure of the extent to which an organisation is accountable to its stakeholders. Alpha's disclosures concerning its ethical, social and environmental performance for the years 1993 and 1999 were compared with information obtained on Alpha's performance from other sources. Two different pictures of performance emerged leading to the conclusion that, in the case of Alpha, reports do not demonstrate a high level of accountability to key stakeholder groups on ethical, social and environmental issues. Of particular concern is the lack of "completeness" of reporting. Second, the article assesses the potential of recent standards or guidelines developed by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Institute of Social and Ethical AccountAbility (AccountAbility) as well as the industry's own "responsible care" initiative to reduce this "reporting-performance" portrayal gap and improve corporate accountability. The conclusions point to the need for other measures to improve accountability including mandatory reporting guidelines, better developed audit guidelines, a mandatory audit requirement for MNCs and a radical overhaul of corporate governance systems.

Keywords: Ethical investment; Financial reporting; Management accountability; Social responsibility

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-12-01

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