Corporate social responsibility reporting on labour-practice-related issues in China : evidence from five multinational firms operating in the electronics manufacturing services sector [thesis]

Zhongtian Li
In 2010, up to 17 workers committed or attempted to commit suicide in the Foxconn Shenzhen factory (SACOM, 2010) . In 2011, an explosion killed three and damaged a dozen workers in the Foxconn Chengdu factory (Apple, 2011) . The occurrence of these incidents motivated the researcher to comprehensively review labour-practice-related corporate social responsibility reporting provided by Foxconn and its peers, five major electronics-manufacturing-services (EMS) firms. Except for the corporate
more » ... the corporate accounts offered through communication channels (i.e. annual report, corporate social responsibility stand-alone report, and website), this research also tries to connect media account represented by newspaper articles with corporate accounts via a joint use of media agenda setting theory and legitimacy theory. Because media and corporate accounts are delivered in narratives, content analysis has been used to code the relevant documents. Following multiple rounds of development, the thesis created different coding manuals for different channels. The research found: (1) the linkage between changes in the amount of relevant disclosure published by Foxconn and shifts in the media attitude towards Foxconn or towards the industry to which Foxconn belongs can arguably be interpreted via the lens of legitimacy theory; (2) the connection between changes in the amount of relevant disclosure provided by peers of Foxconn and changes in the media attitude towards the industry seems to not be interpreted through the lens of legitimacy theory; (3) the relevant disclosure of EMS firms arguably shows that one motive behind the voluntary disclosure is to gain dispositional legitimacy via symbolic legitimation; (4) the online disclosure of EMS firms reflects that websites are still used to promote self-image and lack of two-way communication features. The research has three limitations: (1) coding manuals could be improved by putting them into a full-scale reliability test; (2) media account may be represented by other media output (e.g. TV news), rather than newspaper articles; (3) the relationship between media account and corporate accounts can be interpreted via other theories, such as the institutional theory. Future research could correct the limitations identified above with different methods and further explore motivations behind the voluntary reporting practice by obtaining first-hand data via interviews. The research has implications at three Corporate Social Responsibility Reporting on Labour-Practice-Related Issues in China: Evidence from Five Multinational Firms Operating in the Electronics Manufacturing Services Sector iii dimensions: (1) it has practical implication -the voluntary disclosure could be improved so that the relevant information can genuinely inform report users; (2) it has two theoretical implications -the findings seem to suggest that repercussions of the two incidents can be quite limited in terms of corporate social responsibility reporting, and offering more disclosure and cutting down disclosure may convert from one to the other given changes in the level of legitimacy gap; (3) it also has social implication -reporting initiatives, such as global reporting initiatives, could be refined to make the disclosure which claimed to follow those initiatives more reliable. The research contributes to the literature: (1) it comprehensively reviewed corporate social responsibility information in the context of China -a literature gap (i.e. corporate social responsibility reporting in China) has been filled up to some extent; (2) it explored the voluntary reporting published by five computer hardware manufacturers in the context of global outsourcing -another literature gap (i.e. corporate social responsibility reporting in relation to supply chain) has been narrowed down to some extent; (3) it specifically looked into the disclosure in relation to labour practice -an attempt to contribute to social disclosure. Moreover, the thesis built three coding manuals corresponding to three discourse channels, annual report, separate report, and website, and put part of the coding instructions into a rigorous reliability test. iv
doi:10.5204/thesis.eprints.102376 fatcat:whewjbydwrb3zkk5f4mxvljbtq