Stakeholder inclusivity in social and environmental report assurance

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Abstract:

Purpose ‐ The purpose of the research was to discover the process of social and environmental report assurance (SERA) and thereby evaluate the benefits, extent of stakeholder inclusivity and/or managerial capture of SERA processes and the dynamics of SERA as it matures. Design/methodology/approach ‐ This paper used semi-structured interviews with 20 accountant and consultant assurors to derive data, which were then coded and analysed, resulting in the identification of four themes. Findings ‐ This paper provides interview evidence on the process of SERA, suggesting that, although there is still managerial capture of SERA, stakeholders are being increasingly included in the process as it matures. SERA is beginning to provide dual-pronged benefits, adding value to management and stakeholders simultaneously. Through the lens of Freirian dialogic theory, it is found that SERA is starting to display some characteristics of a dialogical process, being stakeholder inclusive, demythologising and transformative, with assurors perceiving themselves as a "voice" for stakeholders. Consequently, SERA is becoming an important mechanism for driving forward more stakeholder-inclusive SER, with the SERA process beginning to transform attitudes of management towards their stakeholders through more stakeholder-led SER. However, there remain significant obstacles to dialogic SERA. The paper suggests these could be removed through educative and transformative processes driven by assurors. Originality/value ‐ Previous work on SERA has involved predominantly content-based analysis on assurance statements. However, this paper investigates the details of the SERA process, for the first time using qualitative interview data.

Keywords: Audit reports; Social audit; Stakeholder analysis

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09513571011041615

Publication date: May 11, 2010

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