An exploratory analysis of managerial perceptions of social and environmental reporting in China: Evidence from state-owned enterprises in Beijing

Na Zhao, Dennis Patten

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To determine the perceptions of managers in China with respect to the pressures for, and the purposes of social and environmental reporting in the Chinese context.

We interviewed a total of 13 managers from nine different state-owned enterprises all headquartered in Beijing. Interviews were conducted during 2009, the height of the period of growth in standalone CSR reporting in China. We assess the perceptions of the managers from a neo-institutional perspective.

Our findings indicate that, similar to reporting in more Western economies, managers perceive that a variety of coercive, normative, and mimetic pressures interplay to influence SER in the Chinese context. The managers perceive peer institutions as exerting the greatest pressures for reporting, and surprisingly, indicate that the government, rather than exerting coercive pressures for SER, instead is seen as playing a facilitating role. Our findings also reveal that the managers almost uniformly see the purpose of the reporting as a tool of image enhancement, particularly with respect to the general public. However, in contrast to studies of organizational response to institutional change in other settings, we find little nonconformity.

Research limitations/implications
Our findings suggest neo-institutional arguments for CSR reporting appear to hold, even in China's socialist market economy.

Practical implications
The finding that managers see CSR reporting as being largely about image enhancement may help to explain the low quality of disclosure documented in other studies.

Ours is the first study to explore via in-depth interviews, the perceptions of managers in China to the evolving practice of standalone CSR reporting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-98
Number of pages19
JournalSustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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