A selection of interesting articles we came across recently on reporting issues.

Transition to integrated reporting in practice
This article explores the transition to integrated reporting by a customer-owned bank (referred to as Goodbank) and identifies the drivers of this transition, thereby providing insights for other businesses seeking to engage in such reporting. Practice theory provides a theoretical lens for this study. A case study approach encompassing in-depth interviews and documents analysis enabled the data to be collected for this research. This study finds that a customer-owned business context enables innovative approaches to reporting.

An understanding of reporting and recognition of the potential value of integrated reporting, basic guidelines for such a practice, and organisational ethical values and goals based on a combination of economic, social and environmental considerations matched by an organisational structure that embeds economic, social and environmental responsibilities rather than treating these as separate silos, enabled Goodbank to transition to integrated reporting and differentiate itself from its competitors and other organisations.

The full paper is at: Sumit Lodhia. 2015. Exploring the Transition to Integrated Reporting Through a Practice Lens: An Australian Customer Owned Bank Perspective.
Journal of Business Ethics, 129(3), 585-598.

NGO accountability via annual reporting
Concern for NGO accountability has been intensified in recent years, following the growth in the size of NGOs and their power to influence global politics and curb the excesses of globalization. Questions have been raised about where the sector embraces the same standards of accountability that it demands from government and business. The objective of this paper is to examine one aspect of NGO accountability, its discharge through annual reporting. Using Habermas’ (1984; 1987) theory of communicative action, and specifically its validity claims, the research investigates whether NGOs use their annual reporting process to account to the host societies in which they operate or steer stakeholder actions toward their own self-interests.

The results of the study indicate that efforts by organizations to account are characterized by communicative action through the provision of truthful disclosures, generally appropriate to the discharge of accountability and in a manner intended to improve their understandability. At the same time, however, some organizations exhibit strategically oriented behaviours in which the disclosure content is guided by the opportunity to present organizations in a particular light and there appears a lack of rhetoric authenticity.

The latter findings cast doubt on the ethical inspiration of NGOs and the values they demand from business communities, and questions arise as to why such practices exist and what lessons can be learnt from them.

Read more at: Alpa Dhanani & Ciaran Connolly. 2015. Non-governmental Organizational Accountability: Talking the Talk and Walking the Walk?
Journal of Business Ethics, 129(3), 613-637.

Complying with GRI international sustainability standards
This paper addresses the issue of the influence of global governance institutions, particularly international sustainability standards, on a firm’s intra-organizational practices. More precisely, the authors provide an exploratory empirical view of the impact of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) on a multinational corporation’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) management practices. They investigate standard compliance by comparing the stated intention of the use of the GRI with its actual use and the consequent effects within the firm. Based on an in-depth case study, findings illustrate the processes and consequences of the translation of the GRI within the organization.

The researchers show that substantive standard adoption can lead to unintended consequences on CSR management practices; specifically it can influence the management structure and CSR committee function; the choice of CSR activities, the relationships between subsidiaries, the temporal dimension of CSR management and the interpretation of CSR performance. They also highlight the need to look at the relationship dynamics (or lack of) between standards.

Finally, the paper illustrates and discusses the role of reporting and its influence on management in order to better understand the internal issues arising from compliance with standards.

Read more at: Laurence Vigneau, Michael Humphreys & Jeremy Moon. 2015. How Do Firms Comply with International Sustainability Standards? Processes and Consequences of Adopting the Global Reporting Initiative.
Journal of Business Ethics, 131(2), 469-486.

What do best companies do with ethics statements and normative frameworks?
This empirical study explores aspects of how companies that are positively recognized by their workforce as “Best Companies to Work For” convey the underlying principles of their “trustworthy” culture. The study examines the normative ethical frameworks (deontological, teleological, and ethic of care) and affective language utilized in the ethics statements. Although multiple studies have considered normative ethical frameworks in individual ethical decision making, few have considered normative ethical frameworks in organization ethics statements. In addition, this study expands the analysis to include the ethic of care. Of the “Best Companies to Work for” in this study, 93 had accessible online ethics statements.

Findings indicated 70 % (65 of 93) of the ethics statements utilized combinations of three types of normative ethics studied, while 30 % (28 of 93) used a single framework. In statements with combined frameworks, the deontological framework had the highest frequency (40 %), while the ethic of care was present in 33 % of statements and the teleological framework had the lowest frequency (27 %). In ethics statements with a singular framework, the framework rankings were consistent with findings for combined frameworks.

Using the Dictionary of Affect in Language, there were statistically significant differences on pleasantness between statements that mentioned ethic of care and those that did not. This study sheds light on how these trustworthy companies communicate (1) by publishing their ethics statements and (2) by using a multidimensional approach in their ethics statements that has greater pleasantness when an ethic of care is utilized.

Full paper: Kristine F. Hoover &  Molly B. Pepper. 2015. How Did They Say That? Ethics Statements and Normative Frameworks at Best Companies to Work For.
Journal of Business Ethics, 131(3), 605-617.