Exploring the evolving motives underlying corporate social responsibility (CSR) disclosures in developing countries: the case of “political CSR” reporting

M. Karim Sorour*, Philip J. Shrives, Ahmed Ayman El-Sakhawy, Teerooven Soobaroyen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This paper seeks to investigate to what extent (and why) CSR reporting in developing countries reflect instrumental and/or “political CSR” motivations and the types of organisational legitimacy sought in these circumstances. Design/methodology/approach: We adopt a theoretical framework based on neo-institutional theory, “political CSR” framework and types of organisational legitimacy. This interpretive research is set in the Egyptian context post-2011 revolution. We first carry out a content analysis of web disclosures for 40 banks in 2013 and 2016 to ascertain the nature of CSR activities and any changes over time. Second, we draw on 21 interviews to tease out the implications of the change in societal expectations due to the revolution and to deepen our understanding of the organisational motivations underlying CSR reporting. Findings: Following the 2011 revolution, the banks’ CSR reporting practices have gradually shifted from a largely instrumental “business-case” perspective towards a more substantive recognition of a wider set of societal challenges consistent with a political CSR perspective. Overall, the maintaining/gaining of legitimacy is gradually bound to the communication of accounts about the multi-faceted socially valued consequences or structures performed by banks. Our interview data shows that participants reflected on the legitimation challenges brought by the revolution and the limits of transactional strategies involving traditional constituents, with a preference for pursuing consequential and structural forms of moral legitimacy. Research limitations/implications: This study demonstrates a constructive shift by businesses towards engaging with the new social rules in response to sociopolitical changes and the need to achieve moral legitimacy. Hence, policymakers and stakeholders could consider engaging with different economic sectors to foster more transparent, accountable, and impactful CSR practices. Originality/value: We highlight the implications of Scherer and Palazzo’s political CSR approach for accountability and CSR reporting. CSR reporting in some developing countries has typically been seen as peripheral or a symbolic exercise primarily concerned with placating stakeholders and/or promoting shareholders’ interests. We suggest that researchers need to be instead attuned to the possibility of a blend of instrumental and normative motivations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1051-1079
Number of pages29
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number5
Early online date29 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2021


  • Banks
  • CSR
  • Developing nations
  • Disclosures
  • Legitimacy


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