The role of Corporate Responsibility disclosure – For managing external expectation and pressure

University dissertation from University of Gothenburg

Abstract: Society acknowledges that companies’ operations have an effect on their business environment. As a result, companies are not only responsible for maximization of shareholder value, but also for the impact of their environmental and social policies. External stakeholders, such as the media, hold companies responsible for their actions and policies. The media has the ability to influence public perception, and, as such, society’s validation of companies. The aim of this study is to examine how external expectations and pressures influence a company’s disclosure practices. This is a case study of Vattenfall, a large, Swedish, state‐owned energy company, which operates both nuclear power and coal power plants. Vattenfall’s operations have been the subject of extensive media coverage, especially in the early 21st century. Hence, this study looks at how the media, in particular the Swedish press, acknowledged external expectations and pressure. In addition, this study examines how Vattenfall used its corporate social responsibility (CSR) disclosures, from 2003 to 2010, to respond to the media’s expectations and pressures. The findings in this study indicate that Vattenfall used CSR disclosure, in most cases, to justify its activities and policies. Under some circumstances, CSR disclosure was used to show that the company met external expectations and conformed to external pressures. This study illustrates the different ways Vattenfall used disclosure statements and supporting arguments to describe itself as a responsible actor as it responded to concerns about its coal power operations, nuclear power operations and energy pricing.

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