Is corporate responsibility converging? A comparison of corporate responsibility reporting in the USA, UK, Australia and Germany

Stephen Chen, Petra Bouvain

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Non-financial reporting, while not mandatory in most countries, has been adopted by many large companies from around the world and there are now a variety of competing global standards for non-financial reporting such as the Global Reporting Initiative and the UN Global Compact. However, while some companies (e.g. Henkel, BHP, Johnson and Johnson) have a long standing tradition in reporting non-financial information, other companies provide only limited information, or in some cases, no information at all. Previous studies have suggested that there are country and industry-specific differences in the extent of CSR reports (e.g. Kolk, 2001, 2005; Maignan and Ralston, 2002). However, findings are inconclusive or contradictory and it is often difficult to compare previous studies owing to the idiosyncratic methods used in each study (Graafland et al, 2004). Furthermore, previous studies have relied mainly on simple measures such as word counts and page counts of reports to compare the extent of reporting, which may not capture significant differences in the content of the reports. In this paper we seek to overcome some of these deficiencies by using textual analysis software and a more robust statistical method to more objectively and reliably compare the CSR reports of firms in different industries and countries. We examine a sample of leading companies in four countries (US, UK, Australia and Germany) and test whether or not membership of the Global Compact makes a difference to CSR reporting and if there are industry and country specific differences. We conclude that Global Compact membership is having an effect only in certain areas of CSR reporting, related to the environment and workers, but also that businesses from different countries vary significantly in the extent to which they promote CSR and the CSR issues that they choose to emphasize in their reports. These country differences are argued to be related to the role of businesses in society that have been found in other studies of international business systems.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages56
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes
EventInternational Center for Corporate Accountability International Conference (2nd : 2007) - New York
Duration: 26 Jun 200728 Jun 2007


ConferenceInternational Center for Corporate Accountability International Conference (2nd : 2007)
CityNew York


  • corporate social responsibility
  • global standards
  • Global Compact
  • content analysis
  • Leximancer


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