An Institutional Analysis of the Nature of Corporate Social Responsibility Reporting in a Developing Country Context: A Case Study of the Indian Petroleum and Gas Industry

Shilpi Banerjee

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This study examines corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting in the developing countries context; drawing attention to reporting as an important tool of CSR communication. Running parallel to numerous corporate scandals, CSR reporting in the Indian petrol and gas industry has been on a steady rise, especially since the mandating of CSR spending by the Companies Act of 2013. Such contradictory and changing CSR landscape created opportunities for conducting this study, aiming to understand ‘what are companies reporting, why are they reporting and how are they reporting?’ In academic literature CSR reporting and its communication has been termed as merely ‘aspirational talks’ rather than ‘action oriented’, however the reasons behind such aspirational talk has hardly been discussed in the developing countries context. Also, very few studies have explained how the external environment of an organisation impacts companies reporting; with many calling for developing research on the macro levels impacting CSR. Addressing such research gaps this study aims to examine the role-played by institutional pressures stemming from the social context in shaping companies CSR reports and how rhetoric influences reporting with the aim of gaining legitimacy. The primary question: ‘What role do institutional pressures play in the rhetoric of CSR reporting adopted by the Indian petroleum and gas companies in order to gain legitimacy?’ Was analysed through a qualitative case study of four large domestic Indian petroleum and gas companies. Data was collected through interviews (40 respondents from business, government, academia, business associations, NGO’s) and various reports (annual, CSR and sustainability reports) of companies. The findings reveal the ‘ceremonial nature of reporting’ with heavy ‘aspirational talks’, indicating the substantial use of rhetoric for gaining legitimacy. CSR reporting has been enacted ‘ceremoniously’ as a response to perceived expectations arising from various institutional pressures which has led to a corporate commitment for reporting that can be understood as a new form of ceremonial myth; little more than a symbolic gesture intended to testify to a company’s good faith and to its adherence to shared beliefs in order to gain legitimacy. However, the study acknowledges that reporting provides companies an opportunity to articulate ideas, lay down principles, formulate definitions, advertise their vision, goals and plans which in turn can stimulate positive social change; even in situations where reporting is not completely reflected in their practices, which can lead to manipulations, deceit and falsifying of intentions.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Rees, Chris, Supervisor
  • Spence, Laura, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Feb 2018
Publication statusUnpublished - 28 Jan 2018


  • CSR
  • Royal Holloway
  • CSR in developing countries
  • Indian petrol and gas industry
  • CSR reporting

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