Sustainability reports in Brazil through the lens of signaling, legitimacy and stakeholder theories

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Ching, H. Y.
Fábio Gerab
Social Responsibility Journal
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CHING, H. Y.; GERAB, F. Sustainability reports in Brazil through the lens of signaling, legitimacy and stakeholder theories. SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY JOURNAL, v. 13, n. 1, p. 95-110, 2017.
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© 2017 Emerald Publishing Limited.Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to extend the applicability of stakeholder, legitimacy and signaling theories by examining to what extent proactive corporate social responsibility disclosures are interrelated to attempt to gain and maintain legitimacy, to gain support of the stakeholders and to reduce information asymmetry. Design/methodology/approach - To test the theoretical arguments, a longitudinal approach over a five-year period of 145 companies' sustainability reports and statistical analysis was applied to investigate the evolution of their quality. Findings - The results show a significant increase in the quality of sustainability reporting, and the experience gained while writing these reports can contribute to this. Based on signaling and legitimacy theories, this paper suggests that improvement in sustainability reporting quality acts as an important signal to gain legitimacy in case of information asymmetry during the legitimacy process. Th disclosure for economic and social dimensions is better than that of the environmental dimension, and the improvement in quality over time is the because of synergies and interlinkages more between these two dimensions of sustainability, and to a lesser extent because of the environmental dimension. Practical implications - Firms should view investing in sustainability reporting disclosure as a strategy for obtaining business legitimacy. Originality/value - The results of this paper are of interest for several reasons: extend and broaden the use of signaling in studying its use on sustainability reporting; the use of three theories is an appropriate framework for empirical analysis of sustainability reporting disclosure quality in Brazil; and add to the scarce evidence of sustainability reporting in Brazil.