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Consistencies and discrepancies in corporate social responsibility reporting in the pharmaceutical industry

Consistencies and discrepancies in corporate social responsibility reporting in the... This paper aims to examine the consistencies and discrepancies in corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting by analyzing the CSR reports of pharmaceutical companies. Despite the major role pharmaceutical companies play in the CSR field, our knowledge of the extent to which their disclosures provide comprehensive, material, credible and accurate information on their actual performances is limited because of a lack of sufficient literature on the CSR reporting practices of pharmaceutical companies.Design/methodology/approachThe authors present a literature review that serves as the basis to develop the two key research questions: Do pharmaceutical companies publish comprehensive CSR reports? Are company reports that cover more material issues more comprehensive? Using the information on material CSR topics provided by the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and CSR reporting quality scores by the CSR-Sustainability Monitor®, the authors analyzed the CSR reports of the world’s 15 leading pharmaceutical companies. A total of 11 material topics from SASB were mapped onto the corresponding contextual elements in the CSR-Sustainability Monitor. The Monitor evaluates CSR reports published by the world’s largest companies in terms of the degree of transparency and external verification of reporting.FindingsThe analyses revealed that while the pharmaceutical industry outperforms other industries in terms of the overall comprehensiveness of reporting, certain discrepancies exist among these companies in the content of their disclosures. Specifically, pharmaceutical companies beat the averages on multiple key CSR topics. However, while disclosures on mature areas such as environment and labor relations show some level of standardization, those focusing particularly on sensitive areas such as human rights and supply chain are far from being standardized. The authors also find that CSR reports that do not include all of SASB’s material topics are just as comprehensive as those that do. A detailed analysis of US and non-US companies separately further revealed that this result is valid for both groups of companies.Research limitations/implicationsConsidering the voluntary nature of CSR reporting, pharmaceutical companies still resort to selective disclosure techniques to highlight their achievements in areas where they feel more confident while leaving out others that can have potential negative consequences on the company. These results underscore the evolving nature of CSR reporting in the pharmaceutical industry and call for more attention and further investigation from managers and researchers alike.Originality/valueThe originality and value of the research show that despite its rapid growth and wide recognition by different segments of society and business as an effective and promising concept, CSR reporting has not yet reached a point where its expected benefits are realized. Focusing on the disclosure side of the story, this paper tries to identify the extent to which the pharmaceutical industry appropriately addresses increasing societal demand for enhanced transparency on its sustainable business policies and practices. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal Emerald Publishing

Consistencies and discrepancies in corporate social responsibility reporting in the pharmaceutical industry

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
© Emerald Publishing Limited
ISSN
2040-8021
DOI
10.1108/sampj-03-2018-0094
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This paper aims to examine the consistencies and discrepancies in corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting by analyzing the CSR reports of pharmaceutical companies. Despite the major role pharmaceutical companies play in the CSR field, our knowledge of the extent to which their disclosures provide comprehensive, material, credible and accurate information on their actual performances is limited because of a lack of sufficient literature on the CSR reporting practices of pharmaceutical companies.Design/methodology/approachThe authors present a literature review that serves as the basis to develop the two key research questions: Do pharmaceutical companies publish comprehensive CSR reports? Are company reports that cover more material issues more comprehensive? Using the information on material CSR topics provided by the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and CSR reporting quality scores by the CSR-Sustainability Monitor®, the authors analyzed the CSR reports of the world’s 15 leading pharmaceutical companies. A total of 11 material topics from SASB were mapped onto the corresponding contextual elements in the CSR-Sustainability Monitor. The Monitor evaluates CSR reports published by the world’s largest companies in terms of the degree of transparency and external verification of reporting.FindingsThe analyses revealed that while the pharmaceutical industry outperforms other industries in terms of the overall comprehensiveness of reporting, certain discrepancies exist among these companies in the content of their disclosures. Specifically, pharmaceutical companies beat the averages on multiple key CSR topics. However, while disclosures on mature areas such as environment and labor relations show some level of standardization, those focusing particularly on sensitive areas such as human rights and supply chain are far from being standardized. The authors also find that CSR reports that do not include all of SASB’s material topics are just as comprehensive as those that do. A detailed analysis of US and non-US companies separately further revealed that this result is valid for both groups of companies.Research limitations/implicationsConsidering the voluntary nature of CSR reporting, pharmaceutical companies still resort to selective disclosure techniques to highlight their achievements in areas where they feel more confident while leaving out others that can have potential negative consequences on the company. These results underscore the evolving nature of CSR reporting in the pharmaceutical industry and call for more attention and further investigation from managers and researchers alike.Originality/valueThe originality and value of the research show that despite its rapid growth and wide recognition by different segments of society and business as an effective and promising concept, CSR reporting has not yet reached a point where its expected benefits are realized. Focusing on the disclosure side of the story, this paper tries to identify the extent to which the pharmaceutical industry appropriately addresses increasing societal demand for enhanced transparency on its sustainable business policies and practices.

Journal

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy JournalEmerald Publishing

Published: Jun 6, 2019

Keywords: Pharmaceutical industry; Sustainability; Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR); CSR disclosure; CSR-Sustainability Monitor; Sustainable Accounting Standards Board (SASB)

References