A longitudinal study of corporate social disclosure in Chinese listed companies’ annual reports: 2002 to 2006
Li, Jinghua Glynn
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A growing necessity to include a social dimension in reporting practices raises important questions about the nature of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and its impact on corporate and individual behaviour and performance. CSR reporting acts a tool for the delivery of the internal CSR operation information to outside parties and to lower the level of information asymmetry. Currently CSR reporting practice development is globally imbalanced. The KPMG 2005 CSR survey shows that CSR reporting development in OECD countries is much more advanced than in developing countries. In Asia, evidence shows that many developing countries are moving in a positive direction with reference to corporate social reporting. The objective of this study is to produce a longitudinal analysis of the disclosure levels of CSR reporting in Chinese listed companies which are listed in the Top l00 in 2002 and 2006. The longitudinal perspective would enable an evaluation as to whether Chinese listed companies have included more CSR information in their annual reports (the annual report is commonly regarded as the most influential information tool between management and outside parties). The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the most popular CSR guideline, is employed and provides instruction for the content categorisation. The reporting content, reporting via industries, reporting location, presentation forms and shareholding evidence are tested. The findings of this study show that over the stated time period there was a rapid increase in CSR reporting by Chinese listed companies in terms of reporting themes and of quantity. Chinese reporting trend is similar to the global increasing trend. However, the level of CSR reporting in China is lower than the world average and this suggests that more government guidelines and corporate social evolvements are preferable. There is much room for improvement, especially in terms of the standards evolved and in reporting quantity. From the industry reporting point of view, it remains important to encourage companies to learn from advanced reporting companies and provide both more comprehensive and more comparable disclosure of information in addition to the minimum regulatory requirements.