Corporate social disclosures (CSD) are primarily voluntary in nature and subsequently provide an area for research into motivational aspects of disclosures. The main focus of prior research has been whether corporate social disclosures constitute a discharge of accountability or are part of a process of legitimation. Prior research, however, ignores the emergence of an alternate style of corporate social disclosure, the ‘solicited’ disclosure. Increasingly companies are requested to report on their interactions with society in various forms. Non-government organisations (NGOs), regulatory agencies, ethical or socially responsible investment fund managers and other researchers are requesting social information from corporations. This shift from voluntary information provision to demanded information can be viewed as a natural consequence of the increasing pressures on corporations to be ‘responsible’, particularly in light of intensified world wide attention on unethical corporate behaviour and corporate collapse. These contemporary variants of social disclosure are worthy of scrutiny when considering these ‘solicited’ disclosures potentially reduce a corporation’s power in defining the scope and nature of disclosures. Two theories, which are similar and derived from the broader political economy perspective, are commonly offered as explanations of motivations for social disclosures. Stakeholder theory offers an explanation of accountability to stakeholders. Legitimacy theory, on the other hand, suggests voluntary disclosures are part of a process of legitimation. This paper argues that these theoretical perspectives may provide greater insights into managerial motivation for disclosure if they are linked more explicitly to the nature of corporate social disclosure under examination: voluntary or solicited.
Recommended Citationvan der Laan, Sandra, The Role of Theory in Explaining Motivation for Corporate Social Disclosures: Voluntary Disclosures vs ‘Solicited’ Disclosures, Australasian Accounting Business and Finance Journal, 3(4), 2009.