University of Limerick
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An organisational legitimacy perspective of corporate use of the GRI Guidelines

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posted on 2022-10-12, 13:07 authored by Joseph O'Neill
The purpose of this study is to gain an understanding of the role of the GRI Guidelines in corporate environmental disclosure practice. The study employs a theoretical framework, based on organisational legitimacy theory that investigates corporate use of the Guidelines. Three aspects of corporate use are examined: 1) managerial motivation for use of the GRI Guidelines, 2) stakeholder accountability practices of companies using the Guidelines and 3) the extent of international harmonisation of environmental disclosures/governance and management structures among companies using the Guidelines. The framework uses different perspectives of organisational legitimacy theory to gain an understanding of these three aspects of corporate use. The institutional perspective of legitimacy theory is used to investigate the managerial motivation aspect. The stakeholder management perspective is used to examine the stakeholder accountability aspect. The international variation perspective is used to examine the international harmonisation aspect. Three hypotheses were developed to test the legitimacy theory framework. These hypotheses were tested by means of a mail questionnaire. A total of 240 questionnaires were distributed to senior company managers of selected companies in France and the UK in November 2005. French and UK companies were chosen as GRI Guideline usage is most widespread in Western Europe and these countries constitute large economies within this region. A useable response rate of 23.3% was achieved. However, the relatively low number of responses made definitive statistical testing difficult. The findings of the study are therefore best viewed as indicative. On the most part, the findings from hypothesis testing do not furnish support for the legitimacy theory framework of the study. The findings indicate that the institutional perspective of the framework cannot account for the managerial motivation aspect of corporate use. Similarly the findings suggested that the international variation perspective cannot be used to interpret the international harmonisation aspect of corporate use. However, the findings indicate that the stakeholder management perspective can account for the stakeholder accountability aspect of corporate use. Notwithstanding these results, the study is significant for using perspectives of legitimacy theory heretofore seldom used in the environmental disclosure literature. It is also significant as empirical studies on the GRI Guidelines are rare in the literature.



  • Master (Research)

First supervisor

O'Regan, Philip





Department or School

  • Accounting & Finance

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