The rise and fall of stand-alone social reporting in a multinational subsidiary in Bangladesh: a case study

Ataur Belal*, David L. Owen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose -The main aim of this paper is to examine the underlying drivers for the development and subsequent discontinuation of stand-alone corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting in a multinational subsidiary in Bangladesh.
Design/Methodology/Approach - The research approach employed for this purpose is a case study using evidence from a series of in depth interviews conducted during the period 2002-2010. Interview data is supplemented by examining other sources of information including annual reports, stand-alone social reports and relevant newspaper articles during the study period.
Findings - It appears that the stand-alone CSR reporting process was initiated to give the subsidiary a formal space in which to legitimise its activities in Bangladesh where both tobacco control regulation and a strong anti-tobacco movement were gaining momentum. At the start of the process in 2002 corporate interviewees were very receptive of this initiative and strongly believed that it would not be a one off exercise. However, in the face of subsequent significant national policy shifts concerning tobacco control, irreconcilable stakeholder demands and increasing criticism of the CSR activities of the organisation at home and abroad the process was brought to an abrupt end in 2009.
Research Limitations/Implications - The paper has a number of implications for policy makers concerning the future prospects for stand-alone social/sustainability reporting as a means of enhancing organisational transparency and accountability. In addition the paper discusses a number of theoretical implications for the development of legitimacy theory.
Originality/value - Using the lens of legitimacy the paper theorises the circumstances leading to the initiation and subsequent cessation of CSR reporting in the organisation concerned. As far as we know this is the first study which theorises and provides significant fieldwork based empirical evidence regarding the discontinuation of stand-alone social reporting by a multinational company operating in a developing country. Thus, it extends previous desk-based attempts at using legitimacy theory to explain a decrease (or discontinuity) in CSR disclosures by de Villiers and van Staden (2006) and Tilling and Tilt (2010).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1160-1192
Number of pages33
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number7
Early online date17 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2015

Bibliographical note

This article is (c) Emerald Group Publishing and permission has been granted for this version to appear here Emerald does not grant permission for this article to be further copied/distributed or hosted elsewhere without the express permission from Emerald Group Publishing Limited.


  • Bangladesh
  • Case study
  • CSR
  • Legitimacy
  • Social reporting
  • Tobacco


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