Purpose – 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.
Design/methodology/approach – In July 2002 British American Tobacco (BAT) launched its first social report coinciding with the release of the WHO’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.
Findings – This paper asserts that the process, guidelines and assurance employed by BAT for its social report are a management strategy to enter the contested domain of public policy.
Research limitations/implications – Since this research is limited to BAT’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.
Originality/value – The tobacco industry has been heavily criticised and is now facing control via global regulation. In this context the WHO, as a multilateral body exercising regulatory powers, extends the notion of stakeholders that have the potential to exert pressure on the “legitimacy” of an organisation.