Quotation Schönherr, Norma, Vogel-Pöschl, Heike Christiane, Findler, Florian, Martinuzzi, Robert-Andre. 2021. Accountability by design? Exploring design characteristics of Corporate Social Responsibility Standards. Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal.




Purpose While corporate social responsibility (CSR) standards are amongst the most widely adopted instruments for supporting firms in becoming more accountable, firms who adopt them frequently fail to comply. In this context, the purpose of this study is to explore to what extent CSR standards are designed for accountability. In the analysis, this paper investigates design characteristics related to accountability across different standard types, namely, principle-based, reporting, certification and process standards. Design/methodology/approach This study reviews the design characteristics of 50 CSR standards in a systematic and comparative fashion. This paper combines qualitative deductive coding with exploratory quantitative analyses methods to elucidate structural variance and patterns of accountability-related design characteristics across the sample. Findings This study finds that the prevalence of design characteristics aimed at fostering accountability varies significantly between different types of standards. This paper identifies three factors related to the specific purpose of any given standard that explain this structural variation in design characteristics, namely, implementability, comparability and measurability. Practical implications Non-compliance limits the effectiveness and legitimacy of CSR standards. The systematic exploration of patterns and structural variation in design characteristics that promote accountability may provide valuable clues for the design of more effective CSR standards in the future. Social implications Better understanding the role of design characteristics of CSR standards is critical to ensure they contribute to greater corporate accountability. Originality/value This study strives to expand the current understanding of the design characteristics of CSR standards beyond individual cases through a systematic exploration of accountability-related design characteristics across a larger sample.


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Publication's profile

Status of publication Published
Affiliation WU
Type of publication Journal article
Journal Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal
Citation Index SSCI
WU-Journal-Rating new FIN-A, STRAT-C
Language English
Title Accountability by design? Exploring design characteristics of Corporate Social Responsibility Standards
Year 2021
URL https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/SAMPJ-07-2020-0257/full/html
DOI https://doi.org/10.1108/SAMPJ-07-2020-0257
Open Access Y
Open Access Link https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/SAMPJ-07-2020-0257/full/html


Schönherr, Norma (Former researcher)
Vogel-Pöschl, Heike Christiane (Former researcher)
Findler, Florian (Former researcher)
Martinuzzi, Robert-Andre (Details)
Institute for Managing Sustainability IN (Details)
Research areas (ÖSTAT Classification 'Statistik Austria')
5300 Economics (Details)
5368 Sustainable development, sustainable economics (Details)
5369 Environmental management (Details)
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