Voluntary Corporate Sustainability Reporting: A Study of Early and Late Reporter Motivations and Perceived Outcomes

Alnoor Bhimani, Hanna Silvola, Prabhu Sivabalan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Neo-institutional logics for the early adoption of innovations are often argued as more authentic than for late adopters. To what extent might this be so in relation to corporate social responsibility reporting (CSRR)? We specifically focus on neo-institutionalist perspectives with an emphasis on isomorphism (DiMaggio and Powell 1983) to illustrate alternative motivations and verify our hypotheses using a mixed-methods approach (survey data and field evidence from five organizations). We find that the rationale for early reporters entails a financial pragmatism that is absent in current debates surrounding corporate social responsibility (CSR). We also show that normative and coercive isomorphism interplay among early adopters to drive their adoption decision over time, and these facilitate the generation of different strategic postures to placate key external stakeholders. This contrasts with prior studies that have mainly argued for mimetic and normative isomorphism to dominate the decision to implement CSRR among adopters. Finally, we argue that late reporters choose not to engage earlier as (ironically) their strategic proximity to the phenomena being reported is intrinsically close, meaning most internal and external stakeholders assume the proper functioning of the phenomena being reported, and therefore do not demand it. This rationale for mimetic isomorphism is unique and its narrative more positive than that normally ascribed to it in the prior literature. Firms are subsequently less inclined to opportunistically validate or signal their sustainability ethos using formal reporting systems, and only do so superficially to engage in practices similar to other organizations in their industry or the broader economy as a norm.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalJournal of Management Accounting Research
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)77-101
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • voluntary CSR
  • CSR reporting
  • corporate responsibility reporting (CSR)


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