Our recent pick of articles looking at how sustainability practices are assessed.

Quality of CSR reports by large financial institutions
This study investigates the variations in the quality and comprehensiveness of 104 corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports published by the world’s largest financial institutions in 2012. Using a novel measure of CSR report quality, the authors examine the impact of certain national, legal, and firm-level factors that might explain differences in the overall quality and extent of coverage of various issues in these reports.

The findings show that legal factors and CSR environment in a firm’s country of headquarters play an important role in firms’ CSR reporting quality. Common law countries exhibit systematically higher overall CSR reporting quality than code law countries. Countries with higher CSR standards, policies, and regulations in place also produce significantly higher quality CSR reports. Firm size, on the other hand, has no major impact on the overall quality of CSR reports.

In further analysis of the individual aspects of CSR disclosures, namely environment, philanthropy, bribery and corruption, and integrity assurance, the authors document that larger firms report at a higher quality on philanthropy and bribery and corruption. Bribery and corruption is reported at a higher quality in countries with common law tradition, high-quality legal regimes, and high CSR standards and regulations in place.

The authors also observe higher quality integrity assurance in common law countries. CSR-minded countries and countries with low-quality legal environment also report on philanthropy at a higher quality. Finally, the authors offer guidelines for companies toward improving the quality of their reports, and suggestions for scholars and researchers for further avenues of research.

Sethi, S.P., Martell, T.F. & Demir, M. 2017. An Evaluation of the Quality of Corporate Social Responsibility Reports by Some of the World’s Largest Financial Institutions.
Journal of Business Ethics, 140(4), 787–805.


Reporting biases in empirical management research: Win-win CSR  
Reporting biases refer to a truncated pool of published studies with the resulting suppression or omission of some empirical findings. Such biases can occur in positive research paradigms that try to uncover correlations and causal relationships in the social world by using the empirical methods of (natural) science. Furthermore, reporting biases can come about because of authors who do not write papers that report unfavourable results despite strong efforts made to find previously accepted evidence and because of a higher rejection rate of studies documenting contradictory evidence.

Reporting biases are a serious concern because the conclusions of systematic reviews and meta-analyses can be misleading. The authors show that published evidence in win-win corporate social responsibility (CSR) research tends to overestimate efficiency. The research field expects to find a positive association between corporate social performance (CSP) and corporate financial performance (CFP), and findings meet that expectation.

The authors explain how this pattern may reflect reporting bias. The empirical results show strong tentative evidence for a positive reporting bias in the CSP–CFP literature but only weak tentative evidence for CSP efficiency. The study also examines which factors, such as time trends, publication outlet, and study characteristics, are associated with higher reporting biases within this literature.

Katja Rost & Thomas Ehrmann. 2017. Reporting Biases in Empirical Management Research: The Example of Win-Win Corporate Social Responsibility.  
Business & Society, 56(6), 840–888.


Variable reporting in sustainability reports using GRI 2011 guidelines in Indian companies 
Sustainability reporting guidelines developed by Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) provide a systematic approach for the companies to report their performance on social, environmental, and economic dimensions of sustainability.

This study compared the sustainability reports of leading Indian public and private sector companies. Reports were analysed based on GRI guidelines toward their reporting on sustainability. A numerical score from 0 to 3 was assigned for each of the 84 performance indicators (9, 30, and 45 indicators for economic, environment, and social dimensions, respectively) of the GRI 2011 guidelines based on inclusiveness of sustainability report.

The analysis showed that reporting on economic dimension was comparatively better as compared to social and environmental dimensions. Sampled companies did not show much difference in their reporting practices on economic performances. However, considerable difference was observed in their reporting practices on environmental and social dimensions. Reporting practices of Tata Steel were better in all dimensions of sustainability and emerged as a responsible company on sustainability reporting.

Yadava, R.N. & Sinha, B. 2016. Scoring Sustainability Reports Using GRI 2011 Guidelines for Assessing Environmental, Economic, and Social Dimensions of Leading Public and Private Indian Companies. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 138(3), 549–558.


A scale for measuring consumer perceptions of CSR  
The aim of this research is to develop and validate a measurement scale for consumer’s perceptions of corporate social responsibility (CSRConsPerScale) using the three-dimensional social, environmental and economic conceptual approach as a theoretical basis. Based on the stages of measurement scale creation and validation suggested by DeVellis (Scale development: theory and applications, 1991) and supported by Churchill Jr.’s (J Mark Res 16(1):64–73, 1979) suggestions, five different empirical studies are developed expressly and applied to consumers of tourist services.

This research involves 1147 real tourists from 24 countries in two different cultural and geographical contexts. A three-dimensional 18-item scale is proposed for measuring consumer perceptions of corporate social, environmental and economic responsibilities.

This paper presents the complete development of the scale, as well as the implications and limitations of the main findings and the managerial implications.

Alvarado-Herrera, A., Bigne, E., Aldas-Manzano, J. et al. 2017. A Scale for Measuring Consumer Perceptions of Corporate Social Responsibility Following the Sustainable Development Paradigm.  
Journal of Business Ethics, 140(2), 243–262.


Corporate social and financial performance  
The vast majority of extant empirical research examining the relationship between corporate social performance (CSP) and financial performance (FP) selects samples of only those firms which are observed engaging in CSP. In this study, the authors assert that firms’ efforts to pursue CSP and subsequently their appearance in social-choice investment advisory (SIA) firms’ ranking databases are non-random.

Studying the CSP–FP link using selected samples of only those firms whose social performance is ranked by SIA firms introduces a sample-selection bias which limits generalization of results to a population of all firms, and at worst provides alternate explanations for observed relationships.

The authors test these assertions on a large sample of public corporations in the United States over 6 years and find a sample-selection bias. Upon correction of this bias, this study confirms the positive impact of CSP on FP.

Ali M. Shahzad & Mark P. Sharfman. 2017. Corporate Social Performance and Financial Performance: Sample-Selection Issues.  
Business & Society, 56(6), 889-918.


Is sustainability performance comparable in GRI reports of mining organisations?
The objective of this study is to analyse the measurability and interfirm comparability of sustainability performance through the qualitative content analysis of 12 sustainability reports of mining firms using the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines.

The systematic comparison of information disclosed in 92 GRI indicators sheds light on the reasons underlying the impossibility of rigorously measuring and comparing the sustainability performance of firms from the same sector, which are supposed to be strictly following the same reporting guideline. These reasons include qualitative aspects of sustainability, lack of compliance with GRI protocols, indicator contingency, ambiguous or incomplete information, data heterogeneity, and report opacity.

The study makes it possible to return to the very notion of sustainability, its meaning, and flexible application by organizations. The results are discussed from three different theoretical perspectives (functionalist, critical, and postmodern), each of which proposes possible and complementary explanations of the main findings.

Olivier Boiral & Jean-François Henri. 2017. Is Sustainability Performance Comparable? A Study of GRI Reports of Mining Organizations.  
Business & Society, 56(2), 283–317.