Quotation Simmons, Jr.,, James Michael, Crittenden, Victoria L., Schlegelmilch, Bodo B. 2018. The Global Reporting Initiative: Do Application Levels Matter? Social Responsibility Journal.




Purpose Widespread adoption of reporting frameworks has contributed to current global practices undertaken by firms to report social, environmental and economic impact. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the most widely used of those frameworks, has produced several generations of guidelines. Their third-generation guidelines (G3), which had the most widespread and long-term use, relied on a series of application levels to convey the quantity and quality of disclosures. The firm’s choice of application level exemplified its corporate social responsibility (CSR) disclosure strategy. The purpose of this study is to answer the call of scholars for a comprehensive explanation of a firm’s CSR disclosure strategy and suggested researching of the conceptual underpinnings of legitimacy, stakeholder, resource dependence and institutional theories. Design/methodology/approach Given this call, a comprehensive model is tested that explores relationships arising from these four major theories and the choice of GRI application levels. The model includes four constructs: non-financial corporate characteristics, firm financial performance, stakeholder involvement and environmental turbulence. Findings Unexpectedly, the findings do not show differences with respect to the theoretical underpinnings of CSR disclosure and the GRI disclosure levels. Originality/value Despite their widespread use, GRI was concerned that the G3’s application levels could be misunderstood and that the framework needed conceptual improvement. These concerns led to the elimination of application levels with the launch of GRI’s fourth-generation guidelines (G4) in 2013. The findings support the need for conceptual improvement and the discontinuation of the application level system in the G4 guidelines. They also suggest the need for additional research to examine disclosure choices over time, to make understand corporate disclosure strategies.


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Status of publication Published
Affiliation WU
Type of publication Journal article
Journal Social Responsibility Journal
Language English
Title The Global Reporting Initiative: Do Application Levels Matter?
Year 2018
DOI https://doi.org/10.1108/SRJ-12-2016-0218
Open Access Y
Open Access Link https://doi.org/10.1108/SRJ-12-2016-0218


Schlegelmilch, Bodo B. (Details)
Crittenden, Victoria L. (Marketing Division, Babson College, Babson Park, MA, USA, United States/USA)
Simmons, Jr.,, James Michael (Butler University Lacy School of Business, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, United States/USA)
Institute for International Marketing Management IN (Details)
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