Corporate social and environmental reporting in the mining sector: seeking pragmatic and moral forms of legitimacy?

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Amos, Gideon Jojo
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Journal of Accounting in Emerging Economies
Purpose – The study examines the social and environmental responsibility indicators disclosed by three International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) corporate mining members in their social and environmental reporting (SER) from 2006 to 2014. To achieve this aim, the author limits the data two years before (i.e. from 2006 to 2007) and six years after (i.e. from 2009 to 2014) the implementation of the Sustainable Development Framework in the mining sector in 2008. Design/methodology/approach – Using the techniques of content analysis and interpretive textual analysis, this study examines 27 social and environmental responsibility reports published between 2006 and 2014 by three ICMM corporate mining members. The study develops a disclosure index based on the earlier work of Hackston and Milne (1996), together with other disclosure items suggested in the extant literature and considered appropriate for this work. The disclosure index for this study comprised six disclosure categories (“employee”, “environment”, “community involvement”, “energy”, “governance” and “general”). In each of the six disclosure categories, only 10 disclosure items were chosen and that results in 60 disclosure items. Findings – A total of 830 out of a maximum of 1,620 social and environmental responsibility indicators, representing 51% (168 employees, 151 environmental, 145 community involvement, 128 energy, 127 governance and 111 general) were identified and examined in company SER. The study showed that the sample companies relied on multiple strategies for managing pragmatic legitimacy and moral legitimacy via disclosures. Such practices raise questions regarding company-specific disclosure policies and their possible links to the quality/quantity of their disclosures. The findings suggest that managers of mining companies may opt for “cherry-picking” and/or capitalise on events for reporting purposes as well as refocus on company-specific issues of priority in their disclosures. While such practices may appear appropriate and/or timely to meet stakeholders’ needs and interests, they may work against the development of comprehensive reports due to the multiple strategies adopted to manage pragmatic and moral legitimacy. Research limitations/implications – A limitation of this research is that the author relied on self-reported corporate disclosures, as opposed to verifying the activities associated with the claims by the sample mining companies. Practical implications – The findings from this research will help future social and environmental accounting researchers to operationalise Suchman’s typology of legitimacy in other contexts. Social implications – With growing large-scale mining activity, potential social and environmental footprints are obviously far from being socially acceptable. Powerful and legitimacy-conferring stakeholders are likely to disapprove such mining activity and reconsider their support, which may threaten the survival of the mining company and also create a legitimacy threat for the whole mining industry Originality/value –This study innovates by focusing on Suchman’s (1995) typology of legitimacy framework to interpret SER in an industry characterised by potential social and environmental footprints – the mining industry.
Amos, G. J. (2023). Corporate social and environmental reporting in the mining sector: seeking pragmatic and moral forms of legitimacy?. Journal of Accounting in Emerging Economies.