Date of Award
PhD in Accountancy
Department of Accountancy
Jean C. Bedard
Cynthia E. Clark
As part of the Disclosure Effectiveness Initiative, the SEC is seeking public comments on whether sustainability disclosures are important to investors’ decisions. The interest in sustainability disclosures by the SEC coincides with the recent increase in companies voluntarily publishing corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports. My dissertation consists of three studies that examine CSR disclosures, with an emphasis on how disclosure influences stakeholder decision-making.
Part one reviews the CSR disclosure literature contained in accounting journals. I find an overlap between CSR disclosure issues and traditional accounting issues examined in the literature. Focusing on where the issues overlap, I separate the CSR disclosure literature into three main sections. First, I examine the characteristics and motives of companies that voluntarily report. Second, I review the studies examining CSR disclosure accuracy and the role of CSR assurance in improving perceptions of disclosure credibility. Finally, I review the studies examining stakeholder use of CSR disclosure.
Part two provides the results of an experiment that examines the influence of the type of CSR activity, independent CSR assurance and a company-specific negative event have on investors’ judgments. Our results show contingent effects not found by prior research. We confirm prior literature in finding that absent a negative event, investors’ judgments respond most positively to disclosures of strategic CSR activity that are assured. However, in the presence of a negative event, the disclosure of strategic or nonstrategic CSR activity provides similar insurance-like protection against investors’ negative adjustments to their judgments, regardless of assurance.
Part three consists of two studies that provide the results of an experiment examining whether the type of CSR activity and CSR assurance interact to influence jurors’ decision-making. Study 1 finds that jurors’ affective response to the defendant is more favorable when receiving disclosure of non-strategic CSR activities. However, neither the type of CSR activity nor CSR assurance directly influence jurors’ negligence assessments. Study 2 finds that non-strategic CSR activities only provides protection against compensatory and punitive damage assessments when the disclosure is assured. Overall, findings suggest that the insurance-like protection of CSR and the influence of CSR assurance extend to the litigation setting.
Stuart, Andrew C., "The Influence of Corporate Social Responsibility Disclosure on Stakeholder Decision-Making" (2017). 2017. 4.