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Path dependence and path creation: Framing the extra-financial information market for a sustainable trajectory

  • Marie-Andrée Caron
  • Marie-France B. Turcotte
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    Purpose – This paper aims to analyze so-called sustainability, corporate social responsibility or citizenship reports, as artefacts of a compromise between an institutional entrepreneur (IE), the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), and companies. Some companies take on this invitation but to which extent the information they produce as a result corresponds to the ideal promoted by the IE? Design/methodology/approach – A sample of ten reports from Canadian companies were analyzed using a combination of deductive and inductive coding techniques. The discourse and pictures were analyzed to identify whether they represent path creation (adherence to the sustainability ideal) or path dependence (the expression of traditional business interests and practices). Findings – The study findings show that companies adopt the sustainability reporting guideline and ideal promoted by IE, but only partially. Path dependence and path creation are in tension, a condition typical of innovative processes according to the actor network theory (ANT) framework. It suggests that the market for sustainability information is under construction. Originality/value – The value of the paper is that it examines voluntary disclosure of social and environmental performance by companies, using the notion of IE from the neo-institutionalist theory, as well as the innovation model from the ANT. The originality of the paper also lies in its methodology – particularly the use of a mixed method—including the composition of “poems” with “verses” extracted from the corporate reports.

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    Article provided by Emerald Group Publishing in its journal Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal.

    Volume (Year): 22 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 2 (February)
    Pages: 272-297

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    Handle: RePEc:eme:aaajpp:v:22:y:2009:i:2:p:272-297
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    1. repec:dau:papers:123456789/1478 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Vanessa Magness, 2006. "Strategic posture, financial performance and environmental disclosure: An empirical test of legitimacy theory," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 19(4), pages 540-563, July.
    3. Levant, Yves & Alcouffe, Simon & Berland, Nicolas, 2008. "Actor-networks and the diffusion of management accounting innovations : a comparative study," Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine 123456789/1094, Paris Dauphine University.
    4. Hakansson, Hakan & Waluszewski, Alexandra, 2002. "Path dependence: restricting or facilitating technical development?," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 55(7), pages 561-570, July.
    5. Lars Hassel & Henrik Nilsson & Siv Nyquist, 2005. "The value relevance of environmental performance," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(1), pages 41-61.
    6. Jill Frances Solomon & Aris Solomon, 2006. "Private social, ethical and environmental disclosure," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 19(4), pages 564-591, July.
    7. Giacomo Boesso & Kamalesh Kumar, 2007. "Drivers of corporate voluntary disclosure: A framework and empirical evidence from Italy and the United States," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 20(2), pages 269-296, February.
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