Readability of Corporate Social Responsibility reporting

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CSR reports are a powerful tool to demonstrate companies' behaviour toward social responsibility. Companies disclose CSR reports in which they inform about their economic, social and environmental impact. In the previous studies, the authors found out that the readability of CSR reports can be manipulated in order to hide poorer CSR performance. In this master thesis, this theory is studied. I examined if companies that committed ad-hoc CSR harmful activity and companies from controversial industry sectors obfuscate their performance by making CSR reports more difficult to read. Based on 847 reports, the results showed that the readability of CSR reports can be affected by the CSR harmful activity. I found that reports from three examined controversial industry sectors - cement, tobacco, mining are significantly more difficult to read than the standard CSR reports. CSR reports of companies that committed environmentally harmful and unethical activities were also found to be more difficult to read. However, readability of the CSR reports only from the period of harmful activity was not significantly different from the company's typical CSR readability levels. In contrary to expectations from theory, CSR reports from companies that committed human rights violations were found to be significantly easier to read.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen