Social report innovation: evidence from a major Italian bank 2007-2012

Ann Martin-Sardesai*, James Guthrie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, it traces the development of social and environmental disclosure (SED) by identifying and reporting what national and international guidelines aligned to the voluntary disclosures of a major Italian case study organisation, a Bank. It will address the gap in relation to empirical SED studies in banking industries by reviewing in detail the case study Bank’s social report, for the period 2007 to 2012, thus giving insights into the phases of the SED journey. Second, the paper assesses how the social reports have changed over time and identifies the reasons for the change in form and content of disclosure over the period. As a rapidly developing accounting regulatory arena, studies of SED have the potential to examine many aspects of the development of accounting regulation. 

Design/methodology/approach: The paper develops a theoretically informed analysis to track the history of social reports using the Idea Journey framework. The paper undertakes a content analysis of the Bank’s social reports to gain an understanding how and why the changes in social reports occurred during the period. Data sources for the study included historical data from academic literature, policy documents alongside the 2006 version of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the 2008 GRI Financial Services Sector Supplements.

Findings: The findings reveal that the Bank’s social report was aligned to a variety of national and international institution’s directives and guidelines. It identifies the various elements that were at play in the preparation of the social report. The paper provides useful insights for academics, regulators and reporting organisations and highlights the need for a better understanding of social reporting practices, an antecedent to integrated reporting and the European directive and now regulation for non-financial information. Research limitations/implications: This study provides a foundation for future research into the practices of Italian companies who produce integrated report and social and environmental reporting generally in light of the introduction of legislation mandating non-financial reporting.

Originality/value: The paper helps inform improvements in research, policy and practice by providing rich information in the stages in the development of social report, which has received limited attention in the extant literature. It also builds on innovation literature showing how the idea journey framework can be used to shape accounting research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-88
Number of pages17
JournalMeditari Accountancy Research
Issue number1
Early online date30 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2020


  • Environmental reporting
  • Innovation
  • Integrated reporting
  • Non-financial information
  • Social and environmental disclosure
  • Social report


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