Publication Details

This article was originally published as Moerman, L and Van der Laan, SL, Social reporting in the tobacco industry: all smoke and mirrors?, Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, 18(3), 2005, 374-389. Original journal available here.


The purpose of this paper is to examine the process of social reporting as a proactive management strategy to bridge the divide between the social and the economic. In July 2002 British American Tobacco launched their first social report coinciding with the release of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. A case study, utilizing textual analysis of publicly available documents examined through a legitimacy perspective, was used to explore this issue. This paper asserts that the process, guidelines and assurance employed by British American Tobacco for its social report is a management strategy to enter the contested domain of public policy. Since this research is limited to British American Tobacco’s 2001/2002 Social Report and supporting documents, further research could include interviews with key players or a longitudinal study to compare and contrast the social reporting practices of BAT over time. The tobacco industry has been heavily criticised and is now facing control via global regulation. In this context the World Health Organisation, as a multi-lateral body exercising regulatory powers, extends the notion of stakeholders that have the potential to exert pressure on the ‘legitimacy’ of an organisation.



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