Corporate social responsibility and the professional accounting firm: insights from firms’ disclosures

Research output: Book/ReportBook

Abstract

This study reports how the UK’s 20 leading accounting firms disclose work undertaken under the corporate social responsibility (CSR) banner. These activities encompass: (i) those internal actions undertaken by the firm, such as staff training, volunteering and pro-bono, and reducing its impact on the environment; and (ii) the development of new service lines advising clients on sustainability issues. The investigation uses a systematic investigation of a variety of published media produced by the firms including annual reviews, websites, recruitment literature, and CSR reports. The key
findings are that:
1. The larger firms make the most disclosures and are most sophisticated in their reporting approach.
2. The Big Four firms employ a common and recognised framework developed by Business in the Community (BitC). The adoption of the BitC framework allows the firms to communicate CSR performance against a widely understood standard.
3. Similarly, the Big Four widely publicise their CSR achievements in a range of national awards.
4. A wide range of communication media is used, potentially seeking to target different stakeholder groups (eg, clients, potential employees, and especially graduates).
5. The highest level of quantified, high-quality disclosures relate to community actions. Consequently, supporting the communities in which the firm operates provides the best means of being seen as legitimate by its stakeholders.
6. The profession’s public interest role is given little recognition or prominence in CSR disclosure. This is perhaps surprising given the periodic financial, reporting, and ethical crises in which accounting is sometimes implicated (cf. Mitchell et al., 1994).
7. Today, the communication of CSR provides a primary means of developing trust with stakeholder groups, rather than the traditional approach of promoting a discourse of professionalism and ethical behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherThe Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)9780857600837
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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