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Purpose – The purpose of this research is to determine firms' sustainability efforts through triple bottom line reporting on the World Wide Web. Sustainability reporting can assist in brand differentiation to stakeholder groups and ultimately lead to a positive corporate reputation. Design/methodology/approach – Automated web content analysis was used to determine and differentiate 39 oil and gas firms' reporting of economic, social and environmental disclosures across Europe, North America and Asia. Firms were benchmarked for their disclosures against key terms derived from the Global Reporting Initiative. Findings – North American firms disclose the greatest amount of TBL information for both environmental and economic indicators. European firms are the most prevalent reporters of social indicators. Asian firms displayed the most positive bias to their sustainability reporting. Research limitations/implications – Future research would benefit from linking firms' TBL reporting with firm performance as well as including a greater range of countries and industries for comparative purposes. Practical implications – Firms should demonstrate a greater completeness of information across the three TBL indicators to effectively manage their relationships with their key stakeholders. Information should be unbiased and honest for firms to successfully legitimacy. Originality/value – This paper uses automated content analyse to differentiate disclosure levels of TBL indicators across three different geographical regions.
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Gill, D., Dickinson, S. and Scharl, A. (2008). “Communicating Sustainability: A Web Content Analysis of
North American, European and Asian Firms”, Journal of Communication Management, 12(3): 243-262.
Page 1
COMMUNICATING SUSTAINABLITY: A WEB CONTENT ANALYSIS OF NORTH
AMERICAN, ASIAN AND EUROPEAN FIRMS
Donna L. Gill (School of Marketing, Curtin University, Perth, Australia)
Sonia J. Dickinson (School of Marketing, Curtin University, Perth, Australia)
Arno Scharl (Department of New Media Technology, MODUL University Vienna, Austria)
INTRODUCTION
As part of the stakeholder management process, there is increased attention concerning sus-
tainability, attributable to its strategic importance for organisations operating in the contempo-
rary marketplace (Simmons & Becker-Olsen 2004; Frederick 2006; Sahlin-Andersson 2006).
The increased focus on sustainability is largely a result of pressures from multi-stakeholder
groups (Kolk 2008) for more organisational accountability and transparency across a range of
corporate behavioural issues. As such, companies have extended the breadth of their corporate
reporting to voluntarily include information on sustainability issues (Adams and Frost 2008)
and information on their activities towards continuing economic growth, as well as the direct
and indirect impacts of their activities on the environment, and efforts towards social responsi-
bility (Bernhart and Slater 2007).
Engaging in sustainability reporting that is matched with stakeholder needs can provide firm
benefits. When this congruence occurs, benefits that may ensue include positive consumer
opinions (Verschoor 2006), enhanced stakeholder trust (Dean 2003 ), higher employee satisfac-
tion (Dean 2003 ), community support (Gray 2001; Dean 2003 ), access into new countries
(Anderson and Bieniaszewska 2005), image differentiation (Gray 2001; Dean 2003) and im-
portantly, it can assist with corporate brand management (Bernhart and Slater 2007; Bunting
and Lipski 2000). To create these benefits, a strategic effort to present stakeholders with a val-
ue added brand identity is required (Alessandri 2001). That is, the brand becomes the face of
the company and communicates corporate qualities, values and promises to its stakeholders
(Lewis 2003) thereby assisting firms with the ultimate goal of a positive corporate reputation
(Bernhart and Slater 2007). Therefore, an understanding of how and what firms are communi-
cating to their stakeholder groups regarding their brand is of interest, as is a consideration of
how sustainability reporting varies according to geographical variation (Guthrie and Parker
1990; Gray et al 1995; Raar 2002). As such, there is a need for a geographical perspective re-
garding sustainability reporting
Gill, D., Dickinson, S. and Scharl, A. (2008). “Communicating Sustainability: A Web Content Analysis of
North American, European and Asian Firms”, Journal of Communication Management, 12(3): 243-262.
Page 2
Sustainability is recognised as the basis for corporate social responsibility (CSR) (Korhonen,
2003) which refers broadly “to the level of contribution a company makes towards the better-
ment of society” (Uhlaner et al 2004:186). The concept of corporate social responsibility takes
into the account the transparency of firms as well as stakeholder expectations (Juholin 2004)
and supports the notion that firms function better when they fuse together not only their busi-
ness interests but also the interests of their stakeholders (Takala, 2000; Somerville 2001). CSR
studies have typically seen firms analysed according to environmental and social dimensions as
per the definition of CSR according to the Commission of the European Communities (2001).
However, a noteworthy addition to this field is that increasingly firms that measure sustainabil-
ity are doing so through a simultaneous focus on economic, social and environmental indica-
tors (Wheeler & Elkington 2001). These indicators embody triple bottom line (TBL) reporting
(Elkington 1999; Hedberg & Malmborg 2003; Korhonen 2003; Colman 2004; Hopkins 2004;
Schafer 2005; Colbert & Kurucz 2007). The concept of TBL recognises that for a firm to be
sustainable it should conform to societal expectations and minimise or eliminate any negative
environmental impacts without any financial detriment to the firm (Bridges & Wilhelm 2008;
Juholin 2004). According to KPMG (2005), 68 percent of the top 250 global Fortune 500 com-
panies have now embraced TBL reporting (Colbert & Kurucz 2007).
The major benefit of TBL reporting is its use as a device for reputation management due to in-
creased public scrutiny (Rice 2004). Increased scrutiny of a firm has been simplified for inter-
ested stakeholders due to the propagation of technology and electronic information sources.
Given the current plethora of electronic sources, and the speed with which a stakeholder can
investigate a firm, comprehensive and truthful reporting is vital for a firm to manage their cor-
porate reputation. Firms must pay attention to the composition of their websites given that in-
ternational research suggests that the two most common ways that consumers learn about a
firms’ commitment to sustainability is through electronic sources such as Internet search en-
gines and websites (Fleishman and Hillard 2006). The ease of access that stakeholders have to
such electronic information sources indicates that it would be unwise for a firm to mislead
stakeholders over their TBL disclosures, particularly as there are internet websites that provide
‘corporate watch dog’ assistance to expose public relations spin and propaganda (Kampf
2007). Indeed, a firm’s disclosures must accurately reflect real actions, rather than rhetoric or
bias. An organisation that is honest and avoids biased reporting will gain greater credibility and
retain legitimacy (Kolk & Walhain 2001). As such firms must ensure their disclosures are a
reflection of accurate behaviour and not merely a legitimacy device.
Gill, D., Dickinson, S. and Scharl, A. (2008). “Communicating Sustainability: A Web Content Analysis of
North American, European and Asian Firms”, Journal of Communication Management, 12(3): 243-262.
Page 3
Specifically, the research question for this study is; to what extent, if any, are there differences
in the level and type of TBL disclosure reporting on corporate websites of North American,
European and Asian firms’ across economic, environmental and social indicators?
The following section assesses the literature on corporate disclosures across the three specified
geographical regions and concludes with a brief review of World Wide Web literature as a
communication tool for disclosure activity. We have not imposed strict boundaries on the re-
view of TBL-specific literature, but have also reviewed CSR literature, due to the strong links
between the bodies of knowledge. Following the literature review, is an outline of the research
method, an analysis of the data with its accompanying discussion of the results and practical
implications of the findings and future research directions.
Corporate Disclosure Reporting in North America, Europe and Asia
According to Robins (2006), the speed and geographical spread of TBL reporting is notable
with steady growth evident across both the number and type of organizations embracing the
reporting mechanism. However, it is likely that levels of corporate disclosures will vary de-
pending on the region and/or country of operation, due in part, to economic and environmental
differences as well as social and cultural conditions and national legislative requirements (Ad-
ams et al, 1998; Jamali and Mirshak 2006)
In terms of corporate social responsibility reporting, in 2004, Fortune Magazine found that 90
percent of the top 500 North American corporations had specific CSR initiatives in place (Ko-
tler and Lee 2005). In contrast, a report by KPMG (2002) found that only 30-40 percent of or-
ganizations in North America as well as Western Europe disclosed their TBL activities. Simi-
larly, a survey conducted by The Centre for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College found that
41 percent of large companies in the US report on TBL information (Merrifield 2003). While
similar levels of disclosure activity across North America and European firms have been re-
ported, for example, KPMG (2002), Rowe (2006) suggests that North America now lags sig-
nificantly behind European countries as well as India and Japan in their corporate disclosure
reporting. Support for differences between disclosure reporting activity between the United
States and Europe have also been found in several other studies, e.g., Habisch, Jonker, Wegner
& Schmidpeter (2004); Maignan & Rolston (2002), Matten & Moon (2004).
Gill, D., Dickinson, S. and Scharl, A. (2008). “Communicating Sustainability: A Web Content Analysis of
North American, European and Asian Firms”, Journal of Communication Management, 12(3): 243-262.
Page 4
In Asia, corporate disclosure studies remain comparatively scarce in comparison to North
America, Australasia, Europe and Japan because, conventionally, corporate social responsibil-
ity has been viewed as a predominantly Western trend (Kemp 2001; Birch and Moon 2004;
Chapple & Moon 2005). This is supported by Ho and Taylor (2007) who state that few empiri-
cal studies on corporate social/environmental reporting are reported from an Asian perspective.
According to Kemp (2001) corporate social responsibility by firms in developing countries is
harder to achieve than in Western countries due to the institutions, standards and appeals sys-
tems which give life to CSR. This is supported by KPMG (2005) and Welford (2004) who
suggest the differences in region and/or country corporate disclosure reporting can be linked to
levels of development, resources and awareness. Conversely, Chapple & Moon (2005) and
Matten & Moon (2004) suggest that corporate responsibility reporting is a function of differ-
ences in national business systems and culture rather than development levels per se.
Irrespective of delineating the precise reasons why CSR practices and reporting levels differ in
some countries and regions, there is certainly enough evidence to suggest that Western coun-
tries are more advanced in their sustainability activities than in many Asian countries. Howev-
er, with multinational corporations in Asia being placed under more scrutiny by corporate
watchdogs such as NGOs, the rise of ethical investment organizations and Asian consumers
exhibiting signs of social responsibility (Davies 2000). Further impetus is being created by
numerous Western organisations increasing their operations in Asia and thereby positively in-
fluencing regional firms in their CSR activities and reporting (Chapple and Moon 2005).
Communicating TBL Disclosures via the World Wide Web
Regardless of a firm’s geographic location, traditionally it is largely positive information that
companies communicate to their stakeholders, while negative facts are often ignored (Lantos
2002; Wheeler & Elkington 2001). Increasing access to information resulting from online
technology advancements (Fleishman & Hillard 2006) has seen stakeholders become more
empowered and informed due to the increased propagation of the internet (Verschoor 2006).
The increased access and connectivity to information has led to new stakeholder demands for
enhanced transparency (Jamali and Mirshak 2007), and has created greater firm involvement in
relation to corporate responsibility activities relevant to their stakeholder groups (Lewis 2003).
With both the Internet and World Wide Web being acknowledged by firms as important for
communicating their sustainability activities, in many cases, there is confusion over what and
Gill, D., Dickinson, S. and Scharl, A. (2008). “Communicating Sustainability: A Web Content Analysis of
North American, European and Asian Firms”, Journal of Communication Management, 12(3): 243-262.
Page 5
how to report the information (Colman 2004; Colman 2005). While communication technolo-
gies have improved interactivity between firms and their stakeholders and allow for “living
documents”, disclosures often fail to engage all stakeholder groups, such as employees, cus-
tomers, investors, suppliers and local communities. Firms must disseminate information that
relates to all stakeholder groups for disclosures via the World Wide Web to be effective
(Wheeler and Elkington 2001). Furthermore, despite the trend towards reporting using elec-
tronic media, research has yet to adopt methodologies that embody measurement of electronic
sustainability reporting via the World Wide Web and Internet. That is, methodologies continue
to focus on corporate disclosures based on hard copy corporate reports, (Collison, Lorraine et
al. 2003; Jenkins 2004; McMurtrie 2005), using subjective terms and often inadequate sample
frames (Collison, Lorraine et al. 2003; Jenkins 2004).
METHODOLOGY
In order to measure a firm’s sustainability reporting, we benchmarked specified European,
North American and Asian firms against the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). The GRI pro-
vides guidelines to firms in reporting on economic, environmental, and social aspects of their
activities, products and services and is the internationally accepted standard for TBL reporting
(Colman, 2004; Hopkins, 2004; Colman, 2005). The GRI is unique in that it is the only con-
sensus-based public reporting guidelines that covers multi-stakeholder interests at an interna-
tional level (Richards and Dickson 2007).
The process for this study involved compiling terms (consisting of single or multiple words)
from the GRI 2006 guidelines according to the three TBL indicators: environmental, economic
and social. Each TBL indicator consists of numerous concept systems that are represented by
hundreds of terms. For example, the EN18 concept system pertains to the elimination of green-
house gases and is represented by terms including ‘greenhouse gases’, ‘environmental impacts’
and ‘environmental regulations’. To ensure validity of the terms, four independent coders cre-
ated an initial pool of 1200 terms representing the three TBL indicators and then refined the
list. Terms that were considered either too general (ambiguous) or redundant were omitted de-
pending on agreement of at least three of the four independent coders. The final list totalled 71
concept systems comprising 543 terms in the economic, environmental and social indicators.
Gill, D., Dickinson, S. and Scharl, A. (2008). “Communicating Sustainability: A Web Content Analysis of
North American, European and Asian Firms”, Journal of Communication Management, 12(3): 243-262.
Page 6
Context
The Oil and Gas (OG) industry was selected for this study, as the importance of communi-
cating TBL activities has been recognised by the industry as a significant aspect of both creat-
ing and enhancing stakeholder relationships (Lantos 2002). Furthermore, the explorative nature
of the oil and gas industry has led to continual stakeholder scrutiny (Anderson & Bieni-
aszewska 2005) which has, according to Tilt and Symes (2000), resulted in the industry adopt-
ing a ‘pro-active’ approach to enhancing communications with stakeholders. Evidence of oil
and gas firms increasing their reporting activities between 1996 and 1999 was shown by
KPMG who found that sectors showing the most activity in environmental reporting were
those in high risks areas, including oil and gas (Wheeler and Elkington 2001). More recently,
Corporate Register.com, an online directory of CSR activities indicates that 99 oil and gas
companies reported on their activities in 2006 compared with 26 firms in 1996 (Dittrick, 2007).
The 30 oil and gas websites used in this study were obtained from the Global Fortune 500 2006
list (Global Fortune 500, 2006). The websites were divided into three geographical regions:
North America (represented by 11 US and Canadian websites), Asia (8 websites from China,
Thailand, Malaysia and India) and Europe (11 websites from Russia, France, Spain, the United
Kingdom, Italy and the Netherlands). The websites were categorised geographically according
to where each headoffice is located, for example, North America included the firms Chevron
and Conoco Phillips; Asia included Petronas and Bharat Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell
Group and BP comprised part of the European sample.
Attention and Attitude towards TBL Indicators
In order to capture electronic reporting of TBL disclosures via firm’s websites, this study used
an automated Web mining toolset called “webLyzard” (www.weblyzard.com). Continuously
refined for nearly ten years, webLyzard is an academic project that currently gathers Web con-
tent from more than 10,000 websites in weekly or monthly intervals. The content is then pre-
processed and aggregated to enable automated content analysis for revealing patterns and
trends in online media coverage.
Gill, D., Dickinson, S. and Scharl, A. (2008). “Communicating Sustainability: A Web Content Analysis of
North American, European and Asian Firms”, Journal of Communication Management, 12(3): 243-262.
Page 7
For the purposes of this research, webLyzard measured the relative term frequencies to assess
the relationship between aggregate term frequencies per concept system and the total number
of words in the sample. Relative term frequencies are a good indicator of the attention that a
certain topic receives. For example, webLyzard measured the number of times the term
“greenhouse gases” appeared on websites relative to the total number of terms on the websites.
Furthermore, we were able to ascertain the context in which the terms were being used on the
oil and gas Web sites by looking at the sentence data from which the terms were extracted by
webLyzard.
In order to measure the extent of TBL disclosures, a case-insensitive pattern-matching algo-
rithm processed 543 regular expression queries on each of the 1.5 million sentences. In the cat-
egory ‘waste’, for example, the list of regular expressions includes ^waste densit(?:y|ies)$,
^waste generation$, ^waste minimization strateg(?:y|ies)$, and ^waste waters?$. Question
marks instruct the pattern matching algorithm to treat characters optionally, thus enabling the
analyst to query for singular and plural form simultaneously. Overall, 408 of the 543 TBL
terms were identified at least once across the Web sites in the sample. However, frequencies
are not enough to give an accurate picture of the context in which the information is presented,
that is, whether the context is positive or negative. Therefore, we also measured the semantic
orientation of each concept to determine the direction of sentiment (attitude) toward the con-
cept. The computationally intensive process measured the co-occurrence of negative or positive
words with terms belonging to one of the three key indicators. The numerical balance of nega-
tive and positive attributes of each concept is a measure of attitudinal direction or bias (Krip-
pendorff 2004).
Automated Content Analysis
Automated content analysis has a number of benefits over the manual content analysis meth-
ods, which have typically been used for analysing web site content. Manual coding is often a
lengthy process which can lead to coder fatigue, misapplication of coding rules and potential
disagreement between coders on particular attribute values (Potter and Levine-Donnerstein
1999). webLyzard acts as an automated coding system which is not only speedy but removes
subjective interpretations and will apply the given rules consistently over the specified data
avoiding the problems of manual intra-coder and inter-coder reliability. The system also ad-
Gill, D., Dickinson, S. and Scharl, A. (2008). “Communicating Sustainability: A Web Content Analysis of
North American, European and Asian Firms”, Journal of Communication Management, 12(3): 243-262.
Page 8
dresses criticisms of time lags and failures to analyse full sets of available documents as it can
capture (download) documents in large quantities in a very short period of time (Krippendorff
2004). The speed of automated content analysis also assists in overcoming problems related to
gaining accurate representation of quickly changing data when manual processes can slow the
process down (Wallman 1995).
RESULTS
Based on a sample of 30 oil and gas web sites, Tables 1 and 2 present an overall summary of
TBL information across firms in Europe, North America and Asia. The tables show the number
of terms constituting each TBL indicator and the number of terms within each indicator as a
percentage of the total number of terms (or words) across each of the three indicators. For ex-
ample, the environmental indicator constitutes 258 terms, which represents 47.5% of the total
number of terms across all three indicators. Table 1 also shows the frequency count of terms
relating to each indicator. That is, the terms are calculated by counting the frequency of GRI
terms that were reported on websites. For example, the environmental indicator recorded a fre-
quency count of 69,491 terms across all of the mirrored websites. Term frequency counts are
also reported for each indicator as a percentage of the total frequency count across the three
indicators.
Take in Table 1 about here
Based on the data presented in Table 1, it is evident that the environmental indicator has the
largest percentage number of terms (47 percent) and highest term frequency count (47.5 per-
cent) of the TBL indicators. The term count frequencies for the economic and social indicators
are 30 and 22.5 percent respectively. However the social indicator has a higher percentage
number of terms (35.5 percent) than the economic indicator (17 percent) indicating that firms
place a more concentrated reporting effort on fewer economic concept systems than the social
indicator. Overall, firms appear to place the most emphasis on environmental reporting, fol-
lowed by economic and then social reporting. The social indicator is represented by subindica-
tors and is constituted by labour, society, human resources and product responsibilities. Table 2
shows the term count frequencies and number of terms within each indicator as a percentage of
the total number of terms across each of the four subindicators.
Gill, D., Dickinson, S. and Scharl, A. (2008). “Communicating Sustainability: A Web Content Analysis of
North American, European and Asian Firms”, Journal of Communication Management, 12(3): 243-262.
Page 9
Take in Table 2 about here
The three TBL indicators are represented by 71 concept systems advocated by the GRI as rep-
resenting comprehensive reporting and yet almost 60 percent of the total term counts are repre-
sented by only 9 concept systems. This is consistent across all geographical regions. Several
concept systems revealed a distinct lack of reporting and include the EC8 concept system
which outlines investments in infrastructure and services for public benefit, EN18 which delin-
eates initiatives to reduce greenhouse gases and LA2 that indicates employee turn over by age,
gender and region.
Overall, the three most reported concept systems within each of the environmental, economic
and social indicators across the three sampled geographic regions are shown in Table 3. A brief
description of each concept system as per the Global Reporting Initiative (2006), the term
count for each concept system and the term count frequencies for the corresponding concept
system are also shown in the same table. For example, the concept system EN3 had the highest
overall term frequency counts (30,731 counts) of all 71 concept systems. Five terms, ‘crude
oil’, ‘natural gas’, ‘gasoline’, ‘diesel’ and ‘coal’ (28,257 terms) constituted 92 percent of the
total term count for EN3. Reported below in Table 4 (Environment), Table 5 (Economic) and
Table 6 (Social) are comparisons of the average term count frequencies, highest term frequen-
cies and their associated average term counts between North America, Asia and Europe for
their disclosures according to the top 9 concept systems. Average term count frequencies and
average term counts were calculated as the Asian sample consisted of 8 websites where as both
North America and Europe constituted 11 websites each.
Environmental responsibility was represented in the GRI Index by 30 concept systems (258
terms). The top three concept systems as indicated by the term count frequencies were EN3,
EN29 and EN12. In their energy consumption reporting (EN3), firms from the three regions
focused on disclosing information pertaining to ‘natural gas’, ‘crude oil’ ‘gasoline’ and ‘die-
sel’. This emphasis on fuel reporting across the three regions is also demonstrated by EN29
references to types of fuels used, enhanced fuel proposition programs and the future of fuel.
While North American oil and gas firms are the most prolific discloses of the top 2 most com-
monly reported on environmental concept systems, European firms are the most prominent dis-
closers of the EN 12 concept system which relates to biodiversity.
Gill, D., Dickinson, S. and Scharl, A. (2008). “Communicating Sustainability: A Web Content Analysis of
North American, European and Asian Firms”, Journal of Communication Management, 12(3): 243-262.
Page 10
Take in Table 4 about here
The economic indicator was represented in the GRI Index by 9 concept systems (92 terms) of
which EC1, EC4 and EC3 displayed the highest term count frequencies respectively. Results
show that North American firms also dominate economic reporting. In particular, North Amer-
ican firms tripled the reporting by European and Asian firms in relation to stock based awards,
award wages and conditions, employee recognition awards as well as executive compensation,
as well as information pertaining to type of research projects the firm is involved in. North
American firms’ sustainability reporting for this indicator is supported by literature which rec-
ognises the geographic location for their high disclosures of economic information and sug-
gests they provide a benchmark for other countries (Berner, 2005; Lichenstein et al 2004; Mer-
rifield, 2003).
Take in Table 5 about here
Social responsibility was represented in total by 40 concept systems (193 terms) which consist-
ed of four subindicators: society, labour, human resources and product responsibility. The top
three concept systems as indicated by their frequency counts are SO7, LA9 and LA27.
In terms of social responsibility reporting, the findings are interesting with European firms
dominating disclosures in this indicator for both the LA13 and LA9 concept systems. Howev-
er, overall, European firms were the most prevalent reporters regarding their social conduct.
Specifically, their focus was on training and education pertaining to ‘employee training’, ‘train-
ing and career development’, training teams’ and ‘training centres’, as well as information
about their board of directors mainly related to their responsibilities as well board of direct ap-
provals and meetings. Asian firms recorded the lowest term count frequencies across the top
three most reported on social concept systems.
Take in Table 6 about here
Gill, D., Dickinson, S. and Scharl, A. (2008). “Communicating Sustainability: A Web Content Analysis of
North American, European and Asian Firms”, Journal of Communication Management, 12(3): 243-262.
Page 11
Semantic Orientation
The semantic orientation of a word is an important element to examine due to the conceptual
connection between words and their written context (Deegan & Rankin 1996). Scharl et al
(2003) describes semantic orientation as assigning a positive or negative rating to a word. The
rating is achieved through measuring the distance (in words) between a predefined list of
words, which have either positive or negative connotations, and the word in question. In order
to determine the attitude of oil and gas firms’ TBL reporting, an analysis of the 9 top concepts
systems was undertaken. The semantic orientation of all terms subsumed under each of the
nine concepts systems was averaged to conclude the nature in which OG firms’ disclosed their
TBL responsibilities for each of the geographic locations (see Table 7). A score greater then
zero indicates a positive attitude, while a score less then zero equates to a negative semantic
orientation. The results indicate that oil and gas firms report their TBL activities in a positive
manner as each of the nine top concept systems across the three geographical regions displayed
semantic orientation scores of greater than zero. Interestingly, Asian firms in particular are the
most positive reporters across the three geographic regions with the highest semantic orienta-
tion scores evident for five of the nine concept systems. European firms showed the highest
semantic orientation scores for the three of nine concept systems while North America only
recorded the highest score for one concept system.
Take in Table 7 about here
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS
This study uses automated web content technology to identify TBL sustainability disclosures
across North American, Asian and European oil and gas firms. Overall, sustainability reporting
on corporate websites is common across the three geographical regions, with North America
being the most prevalent discloser and Asia lagging somewhat behind. These findings are in
contrast to Kolk (2008) who suggest that European firms are the most active in sustainability
reporting. The lack of reporting by Asian firms is likely due to cultural, development and insti-
tutional differences (Kemp 2001). However, it is estimated that CSR as afringe issue will
likely move higher on the agenda for some Asian companies as they attempt to differentiate
themselves from their competitors and strengthen their brand profiles globally. This movement
Gill, D., Dickinson, S. and Scharl, A. (2008). “Communicating Sustainability: A Web Content Analysis of
North American, European and Asian Firms”, Journal of Communication Management, 12(3): 243-262.
Page 12
is also being influenced by Western multinational companies increasing their operations in
Asia and thereby encouraging Asian companies to also take a proactive approach to CSR and
sustainability issues in order to build a profile that demonstrates their commitment to all their
stakeholders (Lines 2004).
Overall, firms reporting on the three indicators is imbalanced where organizations in all geo-
graphical regions focused largely on environmental indicators followed by economic and then
social indicators. Similarities exist with research from Collision and Lorraine (2003) who eval-
uated corporate responsibility reporting and noted the lack of direction and substance across
TBL indicators. The challenge of collecting and providing sustainability information in a for-
mat suitable for multiple audiences has been noted by industry reports (Greenall and Yachnin
2001). Specifically, firms note that providing completeness of information is tied to accurate
measurement and management, and the use of metrics to demonstrate performance. These ca-
pabilities, are of course, a long term process and as such, organisations may shy away from re-
porting across indicators that are more challenging to measure.
Furthermore, there is also regional variation in reporting within environmental, economic and
social indicators. For example, when reporting on environmental actions, North American
firms focus on environmental fuel consumption while European firm focus on biodiversity.
We also see this variation within the social indicator which is dominated by European firms.
North American firms lead the economic reporting and focus on internal stakeholders and
shareholders rather than external stakeholders. However, understanding why the variation ex-
ists across these regions and the generalisability of the trends across industries is of interest. Do
these reporting differences exist due to regional differences in political and regulatory stand-
ards where publication may be mandatory versus voluntary for some of the indicators and key
concept systems?
Overall, questions regarding sustainability reporting relate to whether the reporting focus is
driven by industry stakeholder expectation, more general regional stakeholder expectations, or
whether these patterns in reporting are industry specific. From this study, a pattern emerged
where shareholders and internal employee stakeholders are the focus of much organisational
reporting. That is, economic and social reporting both relate largely to employee benefits and
employment standards, but does not focus on providing information broadly to community
Gill, D., Dickinson, S. and Scharl, A. (2008). “Communicating Sustainability: A Web Content Analysis of
North American, European and Asian Firms”, Journal of Communication Management, 12(3): 243-262.
Page 13
stakeholders including non government organisations, the general public, customers, and sup-
pliers despite economic and social information being of interest. Environmental reporting has a
broader focus, albeit it does relate to multiple stakeholder groups such as intermediaries, non
government organisations, and the general public. The nuances that exist across regions must
be noted when interpreting the overall results of the term count frequencies together with the
contextual nature of how the terms are discussed.
Furthermore, it should be noted that care should be taken when interpreting the overall results
of the term count frequencies due to the contextual nature of how the terms are discussed, as is
evident from the sentence data analysis. For example, firms have frequently reported on the
different types of fuels used in their organisational activities, more so than the environmental
impacts of transporting fuel which is fundamental to the EN29 concept system. Therefore,
while oil and gas firms may be displaying more awareness regarding some of the issues perti-
nent to TBL reporting, there are not necessarily reporting (or practicing) in a manner which
truly demonstrates a sustainability focus.
In addition to the type of TBL disclosures, is the issue of transparency and credibility
in reporting. It was noted in this research that Asian firms are using positive bias in their re-
porting, with perhaps, the likely intent of persuading stakeholders of their sustainabiltiy efforts.
It should be noted however that the objective of communication need not always be persuasive.
As suggested by Duncan and Moriarty (1998), communication has a role in relationship build-
ing that is beyond persuasion, and relates to objectives such as informing, answering and lis-
tening. Companies interested in building relationships with stakeholders are urged to focus on
communication rather than just persuasion which is typically motivated with the intent of en-
hancing reputation (Pleon 2005). While attempts for transparency are not without challenges
(see von Furstenberg 2001 for a review) reporting honest TBL information rather than persua-
sive or biased TBL information can improve relationships with stakeholders.
The World Wide Web can obviously facilitate sustainability reporting. The role of technology
and electronic information sources have been noted as important tools in the corporate com-
munications arsenal as it provides firms with the opportunity to circulate topical information to
multiple stakeholders, to engage stakeholders in an interactive dialogue and assists in the crea-
tion and maintenance of a positive corporate reputation with the ultimate goal of a more sus-
Gill, D., Dickinson, S. and Scharl, A. (2008). “Communicating Sustainability: A Web Content Analysis of
North American, European and Asian Firms”, Journal of Communication Management, 12(3): 243-262.
Page 14
tainable future. Successful management of this corporate image is however contingent on a
firms ability to communicate with stakeholders in a trustworthy manner where a firms must be
active in communicating for the purposes of disclosure rather than persuasion (Duncan & Mo-
riarty 1998). The access that stakeholders have to these electronic information sources indi-
cates that it would be unwise for a firm to mislead stakeholders over their TBL disclosures,
particularly as there are internet websites that provide ‘corporate watch dog’ assistance to ex-
pose public relations spin and propaganda (Kampf 2007). Balanced reporting may be perceived
more positively by stakeholders and have flow on benefits for credibility and legitimacy (Kolk
& Walhain 2001). As such, disclosures that reflect accurate behaviour and guide stakeholders
towards a holistic understanding of the firm’s actions, and not merely communicating for legit-
imacy benefits alone are advocated (Deegan et al 2002; O’Donovan 2002).
Limitations of the Study and Future Research Directions
While our research findings provide an insight into an understanding of oil and gas firms TBL
disclosures on corporate websites, there are limitations to the research. Most notably of the
limitations is the impact of firms’ TBL disclosures. Future research would benefit from linking
firms’ TBL reporting with their performance to establish if firms that have a greater willing-
ness to disclose their TBL activities also exhibit higher performance. The results also indicate
that oil and gas firms are disclosing positively biased information about their TBL commit-
ments. It would be interesting to establish whether there were differences between firm report-
ing and media reports on sustainability disclosures. Therefore future research could also exam-
ine how the media are reporting firms’ TBL activities.
Limitations also exist due to the lack of generalisability of the findings across different indus-
tries and other countries. Clearly, interest in sustainability disclosures is not limited to only one
industry or countries specific to this study. Charles (2005) states that it is an international issue
with industry reports suggesting that from a survey across 21 countries, 21 percent of people
had looked at, or read a social responsibility report (Charles 2005). To assess TBL disclosure
from a more generic perspective, future research could include other industries in the sample
frame and also seek to determine differences in TBL disclosures across different countries.
Lastly, it is important to note that the website content is not solely dedicated to sustainability
reporting. Website content includes information referring to the annual report (balance sheet,
Gill, D., Dickinson, S. and Scharl, A. (2008). “Communicating Sustainability: A Web Content Analysis of
North American, European and Asian Firms”, Journal of Communication Management, 12(3): 243-262.
Page 15
profit and loss account, and notes to the annual accounts), information for shareholders and in-
vestors, economic–financial information, information for suppliers and clients, corporate gov-
ernment, dividends and other aspects. Therefore, determining relative term frequency counts
across the 1.5 million sentences are impacted given that dedicated sustainability reporting is
not the sole objective of website content.
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Page 20
Table 1: Overall Number of Terms and Term Count Frequencies for TBL Indicators
Category No. of
Terms
% of No. of
Terms
Term Count Fre-
quency
% of Term Count
Frequency
Environmental 258 47.5% 69,491.00 47.5%
Economic 92 17% 44,417.00 30%
Social 193 35.5% 32,941.00 22.5%
TOTAL 543 100% 146,849.00 100%
Table 2: Social Indicator Number of Terms and Frequency Counts
Category No. of
Terms
% of No. of
Terms
Term Count Fre-
quency
% of Term
Count Frequen-
cy
Labour 87 45% 13,955.00 45%
Society 40 20% 12,215.00 37%
HR 30 15.5% 4,753.00 17%
Product 36 19.5% 667.00 2%
TOTAL 193 100% 31,590.00 100%
Gill, D., Dickinson, S. and Scharl, A. (2008). “Communicating Sustainability: A Web Content Analysis of
North American, European and Asian Firms”, Journal of Communication Management, 12(3): 243-262.
Page 21
Table 3: Top Three Environmental, Economic and Social Concept Systems Reported
CONCEPT SYSTEM Overall Term
Count
Highest Term
Frequency
Term Count
ENVIRONMENTAL INDICATOR
EN3 – core
Organisation’s consumption of direct
primary energy sources
30,731 crude oil
natural gas
gasoline
coal
diesel
9,561
9,039
3,639
3,019
2,999
Total : 28,257
EN29 – additional
Environmental impacts of transporting
products, goods and materials used in the
organization’s operations as well as
transporting members of the workforce
9,973 Fuel 8,518
Total : 8,518
EN12 – core
Significant impacts of organisations on
biodiversity in protected areas and high
biodiversity value outside protected areas
5,286 construction
pollution
4,009
540
Total : 4,549
ECONOMIC INDICATOR
ECI – core
The creation and distribution of econom-
ic value and how the organisation has
created wealth for stakeholders
15,040 dividends
revenues
5,707
5,883
Total : 11,590
EC4 – core
The host government’s contributions to
the reporting organization
12,380 Awards
compensation
research
5,193
4,033
2,542
Total : 11,768
EC3 – core
Organisation’s defined benefit plan obli-
gations
5,801 retirement
pensions
2093
1,278
Total : 3,821
SOCIAL INDICATOR
SO7 – additional
Anti-competitive behaviour concept sys-
tem
10,203 acquisitions
mergers
6,373
3,128
Total : 9,501
LA13
The composition of governance bodies
and breakdown of employees per catego-
ry according to gender, age group, mi-
nority group membership and other indi-
cators of diversity
5,018 board of directors 4,593
Total : 4,593
LA9 – additional
The extent that the workforce is actively
involved in formal, labor management
agreements that determine health and
safety management arrangements“
4,016 Training
education
2,337
1,617
Total : 3,954
Gill, D., Dickinson, S. and Scharl, A. (2008). “Communicating Sustainability: A Web Content Analysis of
North American, European and Asian Firms”, Journal of Communication Management, 12(3): 243-262.
Page 22
Table 4: Geographic Locations and Environmental Concept Systems Reported
Geographic
Location
Concept
System
Term
Count
Frequency
Average
Term
Count
Frequency
Highest Term
Frequency
Term
Count
Average
Term
Count
Europe EN3 8,997 817 Crude Oil 3,188 290
Natural Gas 1,398 127
Gasoline 471 43
Diesel 913 83
Coal 2,428 221
Asia EN3 5,420 677 Crude Oil 1,491 186
Natural Gas 1,742 218
Gasoline 425 53
Diesel 1,004 126
Coal 252 32
North
America EN3 16,314 1483 Crude Oil 4,882 444
Natural Gas 5,899 536
Gasoline 2,743 249
Diesel 1,082 98
Greenhouse Gas 360 33
Total 30,731 28,278
Europe EN29 3,010 274 Fuel 2,573 233
Asia EN29 2,460 307 Fuel 2,051 256
North Amer-
ica EN29 4,503 409 Fuel 4,030 366
Total 9,973 8,654
Europe EN12 2,253 204 Construction 1,599 145
Mines 271 24
Asia EN12 1,017 127 Construction 815 101
Pollution 121 15
North
America EN12 2,016 183 Construction 1,595 145
Pollution 211 19
Total 5,286 4,612
Gill, D., Dickinson, S. and Scharl, A. (2008). “Communicating Sustainability: A Web Content Analysis of
North American, European and Asian Firms”, Journal of Communication Management, 12(3): 243-262.
Page 23
Table 5: Geographic Locations and Economic Concept Systems Reported
Geographic
Location
Concept
System
Term Count
Frequency
Average
Term Count
Frequency
Highest Term
Frequency Term Count
Average Term
Count
Europe EC1 6,674 606 Dividends 2,378 216
Revenues 1,900 172
Asia EC1 2,306 288 Dividends 1,030 128
Revenues 931 116
North
America EC1 6,983 634 Dividends 2,299 209
Revenues 3,052 277
Total 15,963 11,590
Europe EC4 2,753 250 Awards 670 60
Compensation 683 62
Research 753 68
Asia EC4 2,046 255 Awards 1,148 143
Compensation 111 13
Research 631 78
North Amer-
ica EC4 7,865 715 Awards 3,375 306
Compensation 3,239 294
Research 1,158 105
Total 12,664 11,768
Europe EC3 2,148 195 Retirement 562 51
Pension 798 72
Asia EC3 753 94 Retirement 146 18
Pension 94 11
North Amer-
ica EC3 3,083 280 Retirement 1,385 125
Pension 836 76
Total 5,984 3,821
Gill, D., Dickinson, S. and Scharl, A. (2008). “Communicating Sustainability: A Web Content Analysis of
North American, European and Asian Firms”, Journal of Communication Management, 12(3): 243-262.
Page 24
Table 6: Geographic Locations and Social Concept Systems Reported
Geographic
Location
Concept
System
Term
Count
Frequency
Average
Term Count
Frequency
Highest Term
Frequency
Term
Count
Term
Count
Average
Europe SO7 3,339 303 Acquisitions 2561 232
Mergers 235 21
Asia SO7 1,173 146 Acquisitions 794 99
Mergers 321 40
North Amer-
ica SO7 6,445 585 Acquisitions 3464 314
Mergers 2810 255
Total 10,957 10185
Europe LA13 2,560 232
Board of Direc-
tors 2357 214
Asia LA13 434 54
Board of Direc-
tors 448 56
North
America LA13 2,024 184
Board of Direc-
tors 1961 178
Total 5,018 4766
Europe LA9 2,116 192 Training 1262 114
Education 811 73
Asia LA9 1,417 177 Training 926 115
Education 469 58
North
America LA9 1,459 132 Training 816 74
Education 625 56
Total 4,992 4,909
Gill, D., Dickinson, S. and Scharl, A. (2008). “Communicating Sustainability: A Web Content Analysis of
North American, European and Asian Firms”, Journal of Communication Management, 12(3): 243-262.
Page 25
Table 7: Semantic Orientation of Top Three Concept Systems for each TBL Indicator
Semantic Orientation for Top 9 Concept Systems
Europe Asia Nth America
EN3 0.185 0.246* 0.163
EN29 0.265 0.357* 0.166
EN12 0.205* 0.185 0.171
EC1 0.265* 0.260 0.211
EC4 0.243 0.331* 0.257
EC3 0.416 0.380 0.432*
SO7 0.270* 0.242 0.203
LA9 0.386 0.555* 0.456
LA13 0.306 0.377* 0.318
... Moreover, sustainability communication practices have been the object of severe criticism, often considered insincere and a mere tool for legitimation or even greenwashing (Adams, 2004;Laufer, 2003;Lock & Araujo, 2020). Therefore, it is interesting to have an understanding of what firms are communicating to their stakeholders regarding their sustainability strategy (Gill, Dickinson, & Scharl, 2008), as well as the extent to which sustainability communications are sincere and reflect the three sustainability dimensions. ...
... The external projection of SCI is considered as the communicated identity of the corporation (Balmer, 2008). Communication is a crucial dimension, as sustainability-based communications have a great influence on building a negative or positive perception around the brand (Mark-Herbert & Von Schantz, 2007;Gill et al., 2008;Fernández-Vázquez, 2020). However, companies are not realizing the full potential of the vehicles they have available for communicating sustainability. ...
... Although building a positive SCI is a strategic effort that should involve all actors of the corporation and multiple communication channels (Adeniji et al., 2014;Jayanti, 2018), several academic studies have acknowledged the relevance and cost-effectiveness of websites for corporate communication, and more specifically for communicating matters concerning sustainability (see, for example, Gill et al., 2008;Hetze & Winistörfer, 2016;Jayanti, 2018). However, certain shortcomings have been identified. ...
Article
Full-text available
In recent years, communicating about sustainability based corporate identity – i.e., the values and ethos of an organization that reflect the sustainable foundations around which the corporate brand is built – has become a central element for building a positive organizational reputation. In the business sector, the triple bottom line (TBL) approach, or a balanced conception of sustainability around environmental, social, and economic performance, has been increasingly adopted over recent decades. This paper adopts a multiple case study approach to develop and illustrate a methodology for analysing sustainability based identity as communicated through corporate websites. A critical and comparative assessment was performed on the information conveyed by a sample of ten Ibero-American companies belonging to different countries and sectors, resulting in a number of specific improvement recommendations. As part of the methodology, a dictionary comprising 354 keywords and a total of 933 variants was built corresponding to the three TBL dimensions, which was then used to perform automated content analysis across the corporate websites in the sample. Overall, this study illustrates a powerful but simple way for companies to assess and improve their communicated sustainability based corporate identity.
... If answer is No, then 9.2) BDA will provide you that information, would you like to adopt? (Gill, Dickinson, & Scharl, 2008). A sustainable business is one that "meets the needs of its stakeholders without compromising its ability to meet their needs in the future" (Hockerts, 1999, p. 32 2007; Sustainability Indices, 2018a). ...
... Although sustainability has received increasing academic attention in recent years, a limited number of studies have investigated the sustainability commitments in corporate missions (for example, see Gill et al., 2008;Lee et al., 2013;Mirvis, Googins, & Kinnicutt, 2010). The broad objective of the empirical study is to analyze the sustainability commitments in corporate missions of the organizations ranked in DJSI. ...
... Nejati, Shafaei, Salamzadeh, and Daraei (2011) found that, most of the world's leading universities indicated their goal for sustainability and solving world problems through their mission statements, values and other contents reported on their websites. Gill et al. (2008) analyzed the web contents of oil and gas firms to identify their TBL sustainability disclosures. Their study concluded that, while the overall sustainability reporting on corporate websites is common across the geographical regions, the reporting is most prevalent in North America and the least disclosed in Asia. ...
... According to Perrigot, Oxibar and Déjean (2015) this reduces information asymmetry between a company and its stakeholders. Other objectives of sustainability reporting include building a reputation as a responsible organisation, showing a commitment to sustainability, building trust with stakeholders, gaining support from the community, and high employee satisfaction (Gill, Dickinson and Scharl 2008;Perrigot, Oxibar and Déjean 2015). ...
... Indeed, websites are considered an effective tool in linking hotels with their customers, making hotel bookings, providing corporate information as well as providing information about products offered (Ezzaouia and Bulchand-Gidumal 2021). Because of the ease of access to the internet by customers and the speed at which they can verify a company's reporting through online sources it has become pertinent for hospitality organisations to pay attention to their website disclosures of non-financial information (Gill, Dickinson and Scharl 2008;Joseph 2010). In general, website disclosures of sustainability practices has helped to resolve the challenge associated with the dissemination of sustainability reports (Jose and Lee 2007). ...
Article
Purpose - The aim of this study was to analyse website disclosures of sustainability practices by major hotel chains in Zimbabwe. Design - Five major hotel chains in Zimbabwe were purposively selected for this study. The corporate websites of the selected hospitality chains were visited to determine their disclosure of sustainability practices. Methods - Based on the literature and other global best practices in hospitality sustainability, a coding framework was developed to help identify what to look for on the corporate websites. The codes were categorised into four broad areas, namely sustainability leadership, environmental sustainability, social sustainability and economic sustainability. Data were collected from texts, annual reports, and other relevant website materials documenting sustainable practices of each hotel chain. Results - The analysis of website disclosures of sustainable practices adopted by Zimbabwe's five major hotel chains revealed that sustainability practices are not widely publicised. The available information on websites visited indicated more reporting of social sustainability issues and a fair amount of reporting on environmental sustainability. Economic sustainability is the least reported. Also notable is the low level of reporting on the SDGs and the lack of separate sustainability reports on the corporate websites surveyed. Originality - The results of this study provide a critical indication of how voluntary website disclosure can be improved in the absence of a strong legal framework.
... The findings of a number of researchers who have studied the content of sustainability disclosures (Chen & Bouvain, 2009;Fortanier & Kolk, 2007;Gill, Dickinson, & Scharl, 2008;Guenther, Hoppe, & Poser, 2006;Kabir & Akinnusi, 2012;Meyskens & Paul, 2010) tend to show that this content varies according to the countries where the companies are located (Branco, Delgado, Sá, & Sousa, 2014;Chen & Bouvain, 2009;Gill et al., 2008;Kotonen, 2009), their industry sector (Fortanier & Kolk, 2007;Kotonen, 2009), their size (Gamerschlag et al., 2011;Reverte, 2009) and their disclosure antecedents (Meyskens & Paul, 2010). These empirical results also support the explanations of the neo-institutional theory. ...
... The findings of a number of researchers who have studied the content of sustainability disclosures (Chen & Bouvain, 2009;Fortanier & Kolk, 2007;Gill, Dickinson, & Scharl, 2008;Guenther, Hoppe, & Poser, 2006;Kabir & Akinnusi, 2012;Meyskens & Paul, 2010) tend to show that this content varies according to the countries where the companies are located (Branco, Delgado, Sá, & Sousa, 2014;Chen & Bouvain, 2009;Gill et al., 2008;Kotonen, 2009), their industry sector (Fortanier & Kolk, 2007;Kotonen, 2009), their size (Gamerschlag et al., 2011;Reverte, 2009) and their disclosure antecedents (Meyskens & Paul, 2010). These empirical results also support the explanations of the neo-institutional theory. ...
Article
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This study aims to examine the trends in the sustainability performance indicators disclosed in sustainability reports by Canadian companies. Our sample is comprised of eight companies in four sectors and our observations cover a 19-year period. The results of our analysis show a general increase over time of sustainability performance indicators disclosed, as well as varying degrees of coverage of the three sustainability dimensions. While the focus was more on environmental performance in the early 2000s, social performance indicators, such as employment practices and human rights, have now gained more traction. In addition, the scope of sustainability performance indicators disclosed in sustainability reports reached a plateau around 2010. Our results highlight the need for a standardised approach to sustainability reporting that would help overcome the shortcomings of voluntary initiatives and improve the overall comparability of voluntary reporting mechanisms.
... GRI frameworks are one of the most widely used reporting formats for CS worldwide and have been issuing its frameworks since 2000 (Ernst & Young, 2016). 9 Though firms vary to a great degree in their CS reporting (Gill, et al., 2008), the GRI framework has somewhat harmonized the CS reporting of multinational firms across the globe (Fortanier, et al., 2011). On the other hand, a rather contemporary institution is the SASB that published its first set of standards during 2018. ...
Thesis
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Regulations are argued to have the answer to solving various social and economic problems that society faces today (e.g., climate change, tax evasion, etc.). However, regulations may instead become the problem (e.g., overregulation). The central research question of this doctoral thesis is “are corporate disclosures regulations a social solution or a problem?” To answer the central research question, Papers I and II examine the economic effects of an EU-wide audit reform, the Annual Accounts Directive: 2013/34/EU, on firms and the society. Papers III, IV, and V examine firm behavior to assess the need for public regulation of nonfinancial reporting in the light of an EU-wide reform, the Nonfinancial Reporting Directive: 2014/95/EU, commonly known as the NFRD. The thesis posits that the current implementations of these reforms in some settings are imperfect and thus costly for the firms and society. It recommends deregulation of the monitoring of financial disclosure, i.e., to allow more small firms the option of deciding if an audit is beneficial for them or not. On the other hand, recommends a different approach for regulating nonfinancial reporting, e.g., sustainability reporting. For instance, regulations that can influence firms’ governance structure, e.g., board diversity. A firm with a diverse board is more likely to adopt a sustainability agenda which is better aligned with the expectations of the EU regulators. Stakeholders use firms’ disclosures to evaluate its performance and behavior for various decision making. For example, shareholders, in their investing or divesting decisions; analysts, in making various forecasts and recommendations; or governments, in assessing the need for reforms. Historically, stakeholders commonly used financial information for these types of decision making. Hence, there are well established generic measures to evaluate firms’ financial information (e.g., earnings quality measures and financial-statement ratios). Nowadays, stakeholders are increasingly using firms’ sustainability related information in their decision-making process as well. However, replicable and scalable generic measures to evaluate such information are missing. This thesis develops objective approaches and a generic measure, to evaluate firms’ sustainability related disclosures. The developed approaches for analyzing unstructured text data may be applied to other fields that can benefit from the use of natural language processing tools.
Article
In this work, more than 340 of the largest manufacturing companies from China, Europe, Japan, and the United States are analysed to measure the extent of their environmental website disclosure from multiple perspectives, to explore determining factors of disclosure and to investigate whether disclosure correlates to scores of environmental performance ratings. The study data set included more than 80 website observation items, data about downloadable annual sustainability reports, financial performance data and the environmental scores in the CDP Rating and the Refinitiv ESG Scores. Descriptive statistical analyses and correlation analyses were performed for the entire sample and for the regional subsets of the sample. One of the major results is that all regions show low levels of website disclosure. However, some variation in the extent of disclosure was found. The lowest level of disclosure was found for Chinese websites. Higher levels were observed for the companies from Europe, Japan and the United States. The analysis of the reports revealed that only one‐third of the sample companies from China but more than half of the companies from Europe, Japan and the United States supply recent reports. It was also found that integrated reports are less used in the United States, particularly when compared with companies from Europe and Japan. Insights also suggest that there is a weak to moderate correlation between one of the disclosure scores used and the Refinitiv ESG Scores. Further correlation analyses did not provide indications that company age and financial performance are to be considered determining factors of environmental website disclosure.
Chapter
As stakeholders make their decisions based on corporate reputation, it is vital for the companies to ensure that their CSR activities are communicated effectively via social media (SM) channels. It can be argued that by leveraging CSR in SM channels, firms have the possibility in strengthening trust and loyalty of their stakeholders and thereby enhancing corporate reputation and firm performances. Hence, the study aims to examine how CSR communication has an impact on firm performances and reputation. Top 50 and bottom 50 companies that are ranked in the Social Media Sustainability Index (2016) are collected along with four reputation ranking indices and Twitter data for this study. Although there is no significant relationship between Twitter and corporate reputation, there is a significant relationship between Twitter and firm performances.
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Sustainability has become a pervasive issue for luxury businesses ever since the tendency towards mass luxury production. In this context, the emerging middle class from the Global South positions itself as the target consumers for the current landscape. The purpose of this article is to examine how luxury brand marketers can balance sustainability measures and communications while maintaining their exclusivity in this evolving market. Prior research suggests that consumers do not regard luxury and sustainability as compatible, whilst the concept of ‘sustainable luxury’ is gaining attention among researchers and businesses. This article explores how this apparent contradiction, or even paradox, can be negotiated to implement sustainable luxury in practice. Existing research has highlighted the growing yet fragmented evidence on the new wave of consumers from the Global South, in particular India and Latin America. Twenty-one semi-structured interviews were conducted with the Indian middle class followed by a thematic analysis. This article looked into three major aspects: (1) the existing knowledge on luxury–sustainability relationship, (2) the existence of an attitude–behaviour gap, and (3) the benefits of improved communication from businesses to consumers. A new consumer perspective emerged from the study, which can be added to existing literature, namely a positive correlation (rather than an inherent contradiction) between the two concepts of ‘luxury’ and ‘sustainability’. This can make the luxury industry a pioneer for sustainability through improved, nuanced communication. The positive correlation was based on consumers’ belief in buying a certain package when purchasing a luxury product that includes sustainability as a highly desirable inherent trait due to its high price and nature of the concept. The findings further highlight a shift in consumers’ mind that demands improved communication in the form of grounded measures and two-way dialogue to tackle lack of transparency and trust on the industry. Increased communication is identified to be a positive influence on consumer purchase decisions if convincing forms of communication are included. By adding a second viewpoint, this article is seen as bridging the gap between the scholarly perspective of convergence (sustainable luxury) and the consumer perspective of controversy (contradiction). The discussion elaborates on what it means for theory and practice, and some pragmatic recommendations are made in the conclusion. This future is mainly based on communication, which helps to break down the luxury–sustainability contradiction and the existing attitude–behaviour gap.
Chapter
Situation faced: This case presents the story of Oasis Coffins, a manufacturer of beautiful hand-crafted coffins and ash urns. This venture began its operations in Bangladesh, paradoxically a Muslim majority country where the demand for coffin is limited. Action taken: The founder of Oasis Coffins, David How, who is a Chartered Environmentalist, took advantage of the location and sustainably sourced natural products that are abundantly available in Bangladesh. Using these products, Oasis Coffins dedicatedly develops coffins and exploits the recent trend of “green” death in the global funeral industry. Results achieved: While both born global firms and sustainability have received significant academic attention in recent years, most studies are based on firms of developed economies. Addressing the research gap, the authors have selected Oasis Coffins, a small venture that successfully integrated the economic, social, and environmental sustainability dimensions while operating from a developing nation. The paper discusses how Oasis Coffins operates as a sustainable business in Bangladesh and has been successfully exporting funeral products in international markets such as the UK, Holland, and Germany. The authors provide an account of the financial challenges, the supply chain, and promotional strategies of Oasis Coffins. Lessons learned: While this study is a significant contribution to the SME, sustainability, and born global literature, it broaches discussion on the founder’s capabilities surrounding opportunity recognition, exploitation, and establishment of a born global firm in a developing nation.
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The authors propose a communication-based model of relationship marketing and discuss how communication (rather than persuasion) is the foundation of the “new” customer-focused marketing efforts. The authors trace recent parallel shifts in communication and marketing theory and show the intersections between communication and marketing. Although communication always has been a critical element in marketing, the authors show how the increase in interactivity makes communication an even more valuable element of marketing by identifying those many points that link the two disciplines. Using the three key points at which the two disciplines intersect—messages, stakeholders, and interactivity—the authors develop a communication-based model of marketing. They demonstrate how interactive communication at three levels—corporate, marketing, and marketing communication—leads to the brand relationships that drive brand value.
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The recent statistics prepared by CorporateRegister.com Ltd., which is an online directory of corporate social responsibility and sustainability reports, has reported on the performance of sustainability reports produced by various companies, including those of the oil and gas industry. It showed that more than half of the top 250 companies in the Fortune 500 filed sustainability reports. On the global basis, out of 300 of the world's largest companies, 234 released a corporate nonfinancial report. Some of the oil and gas companies used the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) reporting guidelines from the US-based Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) to report on their corporate nonfinancial reports. France has taken the procedure by making the reporting mandatory. On the reports, it was showed that 90% of the oil and gas company produced multiple-issue reports.