The Supply of Corporate Social Responsibility Disclosures Among U.S. Firms

49 Pages Posted: 21 Mar 2007 Last revised: 29 Nov 2014

See all articles by Lori Holder-Webb

Lori Holder-Webb

Western New England University - Department of Accounting and Finance

Jeffrey R. Cohen

Boston College - Department of Accounting

Leda Nath

University of Wisconsin - Whitewater

David Wood

Boston College

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 30, 2007

Abstract

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.

Keywords: Corporate Disclosure, Non-financial Information, Corporate Social Responsibility Reporting

JEL Classification: M14, M41, M45, M49, G39

Suggested Citation

Holder-Webb, Lori and Cohen, Jeffrey R. and Nath, Leda and Wood, David, The Supply of Corporate Social Responsibility Disclosures Among U.S. Firms (November 30, 2007). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=970330 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.970330

Lori Holder-Webb (Contact Author)

Western New England University - Department of Accounting and Finance ( email )

United States

Jeffrey R. Cohen

Boston College - Department of Accounting ( email )

Carroll School of Management
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
United States
617-552-3165 (Phone)
617-552-2097 (Fax)

Leda Nath

University of Wisconsin - Whitewater ( email )

800 West Main St.
Whitewater, WI 53190-1790
United States

David Wood

Boston College ( email )

55 Lee Road
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467-3942
United States

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