Pandelidis, Theodora Marie
Exploring the Potential of Web-Based Communication Media to Improve Non-Financial Reporting Completeness and Comprehensibility.
[Dissertation (University of Nottingham only)]
This study explores the potential of web-based sustainability reporting methods to improve corporate non-financial reporting completeness and comprehensibility, by analyzing, in detail, the web-based reporting practices of one company, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals PLC. Over the last four decades, public enthusiasm for corporate non-financial reporting has both swelled and waned; and the content, format and media for such reporting has evolved. Proponents of such reporting practices argue that non-financial reporting plays an important role in increasing transparency surrounding corporate activities and impacts, and their consequences for stakeholders. However, critics of current corporate non-financial reporting efforts assert that traditional sustainability reporting practices lack completeness and comprehensibility, and therefore, fail to enhance corporate transparency and accountability. While there are many reasons why current non-financial reporting methods lack completeness and comprehensibility, one could conjecture that the inherent limitations of traditional reporting media, specifically paper media, contribute to this gap, and that alternative reporting media may offer significant communication improvements.
This study proposes that web-based reporting media offer significant media-specific advantages over traditional print media and, therefore, have the potential to improve non-financial reporting completeness and comprehensibility. Data were collected using a two-part, qualitative research methodology conceptualized through Media Richness Theory and basic communication theories, and using Adam’s (2004) ‘reporting performance portrayal gap’ and Blanke et al (2004, 2007) communication criteria as proxies for reporting completeness and comprehensibility. A limitation of this research, which should be addressed in future studies, is the lack of generalizable results, due to the fact that the study consisted of single case, exploratory research. Conclusions are only tentative and cannot be generalized, but suggest that leveraging the media-specific qualities of the web can have a direct (positive) effect on reporting comprehensibility via improvements to information accessibility and information comprehensibility, while the web’s potential to improve reporting completeness can only occur in its role as a reporting enabler. The results indicate that reporting completeness is dependent on other significant factors—such as a genuine commitment to reporting transparency—in addition to the choice of reporting media, supporting the call for more comprehensive, compulsory requirements for non-financial reporting.
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