Global financial crisis and relevance of GRI disclosure in Italy. Insights from the stakeholder theory and the legitimacy theory

In this study, we examine the effects of voluntary disclosure on the market value of Italian-listed companies adopting GRI guidelines, interpreting our results in the light of both stakeholder theory and legitimacy theory. From a methodological viewpoint, an index is used to measure the level of disclosure of human resources and environmental information. We consider a sample of firms listed on the Milan Stock Exchange for an eleven-year period (2004-2014). The period chosen gave us the opportunity to assess the value-relevance of environmental and social information before and during the Global Financial Crisis. We supplement the previous literature on the topic of the relationship between social and environmental disclosure and value-relevance by arguing that sustainability tools have to be evaluated, remembering that they express a notion of value in the long term and provide information to a large number of stakeholders. Our findings show that environmental information is only value-relevant during the crisis period, when the shareholder perspective comes more into line with other stakeholder perspectives because they are seeking a middle-to-long run notion of value. Finally, we find that a high level of GRI information disclosure is positively evaluated by investors; this result is important also because it was obtained in the Italian market which is largely considered inefficient, and thus it supports the urgent need to provide high-quality information in each type of market.

Keywords: Social and environmental reports, global financial crisis, global reporting initiative guidelines, stakeholder theory, value relevance.


IAS-IFRS e rendicontazione socio-ambientale: una verifica della estendibilità dei principi generali del Framework alla valutazione della qualità dei documenti volontari (IAS-IFRS and social and environmental accounting reporting: a review of the extensibility of the Framework’s general principles to assess the quality of volunteer disclosures)

Obiettivo del presente lavoro è investigare sull’osservanza delle caratteristiche qualitative individuate dal Framework IASB nella predisposizione dei bilanci sociali e di sostenibilità, evidenziando al contempo la necessità di introdurre l’obbligatorietà del rispetto dei medesimi, in quanto elementi ritenuti imprescindibili per la produzione di documenti socio-ambientali attendibili. Nello specifico, lo studio empirico è fondato sull’analisi dei report pubblicati da un campione di imprese quotate nel periodo 2004-2008, con l’intento di verificare, attraverso un’indagine quali-quantitativa l’”utilità” dei bilanci socio-ambientali, la quale dipende dalla comprensibilità, significatività, attendibilità e comparabilità delle informazioni in essi contenute. I dati rilevati, statisticamente elaborati, rappresentano l’atteggiamento qualitativo di risposta delle società alle caratteristiche individuate dal Framework, quale scelta consapevole o inconsapevole di allineamento ad esse.


The aim of this work is to investigate the compliance with the qualitative characteristics identified by the IASB Framework in preparing social and sustainability reports, while highlighting the need to introduce the mandatory respect for themselves as elements considered essential for the production of reliable social and environmental disclosures. In particular, the empirical study is based on the analysis of published reports from a sample of Italian listed companies in the period 2004-2008, with the intent to verify, through a qualitative and quantitative investigation, the effectiveness of socio-environmental reports, which depends on the understandability, relevance, reliability and comparability of the information contained therein. The data collected, processed statistically represent the attitude of companies to answer qualitative characteristics identified by the Framework, as conscious or unconscious choice of alignment with them.


Keywords: social and environmental reports, Framework IASB, accountability, qualitative characteristics, listed companies, standards.