The Supply of Corporate Social Responsibility Disclosures Among U.S. Firms
Western New England University - Department of Accounting and Finance
Jeffrey R. Cohen
Boston College - Department of Accounting
University of Wisconsin - Whitewater
November 30, 2007
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is an expanding area of activity for managers and academics. Increases in consumer demand for fair trade goods and growth in assets under professional management and invested with a social responsibility focus are driving demands for information not provided through traditional financial statements and analyses. At the same time, mainstream institutional investors have encouraged incorporation of environmental, social, and governance information into equity analysis. The majority of research in this area has been performed on European and Australian firms. We expand on this literature by exploring the CSR disclosure practices of a size- and industry-stratified sample of publicly-traded U.S. firms. We perform a content analysis on the public information portfolio provided by these firms during 2004. CSR activity was disclosed by most of the sample and was included in nearly half of public disclosures made by the firms during 2004. Of particular emphasis are community matters, health and safety, diversity and human resources matters, and environmental programs. Primary venues of disclosure are mass media releases such as corporate websites and press releases, followed closely by mandatory filings. Consistent with prior research, we identify industry effects in terms of content, emphasis, and reporting format choices. However, we offer only mixed evidence on the existence of a size effect. Disclosure frequency and emphasis is significantly different for the largest one-fifth of the firms, but not for the remainder of the sample. There are, however, identifiable size-effects with respect to reporting format choice. Primary trends are that the use of websites is increasing in firm size, while the use of mandatory filings is decreasing in firm size. Finally, and also consistent with prior literature, we document a generally self-laudatory tone in the content of CSR disclosures for the sample firms.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 49
Keywords: Corporate Disclosure, Non-financial Information, Corporate Social Responsibility Reporting
JEL Classification: M14, M41, M45, M49, G39working papers series
Date posted: March 21, 2007 ; Last revised: September 28, 2009
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