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Social contagion and the institutionalisation of GRI-based sustainability reporting practices
journal contributionposted on 2021-06-10, 00:00 authored by A Jain, M A Islam, Monica KeneleyMonica Keneley, M Kansal
This study aims to investigate the adoption and diffusion of Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)-based sustainability reporting practices within the global financial services sector.
The approach draws on the sociological construct of social contagion theory (SCT) to explain the drivers of diffusion of GRI-based sustainability reporting. Based on a longitudinal study of GRI adoption over a period from 2000 to 2016, thematic content analysis of sustainability reports and media articles was used to refine information gathered that related to nature and spread of GRI-based sustainability practices within the global financial services sector.
This study finds that the early adopters of GRI-based sustainability reporting and the accompanying media attention influenced the institutional diffusion of GRI-based reporting in the financial services sector. This growth was isomorphic as companies copied best practice models to reduce uncertainty and maintain legitimacy.
This paper focuses on the institutional diffusion of sustainability reporting practices within the global financial sector. It explores the notion of social contagion as an institutional dynamic to understand the drivers for the adoption and diffusion of GRI-based sustainability reporting across national borders. In doing so, the study contributes to the accounting literature on diffusion of innovations in reporting practice, but also, more generally, to the field of diffusion of new ideas in organisations using the unique approach of SCT.