Disclosure responses to mining accidents: South African evidence

Coetzee, Charmaine M.; van Staden, Chris J.
December 2011
Accounting Forum;Dec2011, Vol. 35 Issue 4, p232
Academic Journal
Abstract: Mining activities generate significant social concerns in terms of employee safety and stakeholder scrutiny has increased considerably in recent years. Social and environmental accounting research is largely dedicated to environmental issues and the study of other components of social accounting is limited. This study examines safety disclosures in the annual reports, sustainability reports, and reactive corporate press releases of South African mining organisations following two major mining accidents occurring at Harmony Gold and Gold Fields’ mines. Results show that organisations react to perceived legitimacy threats through increased safety disclosures. The entire mining industry evidences an increase in disclosure levels after the incidents, suggesting that organisations do respond to increased stakeholder scrutiny threatening their legitimacy. Furthermore, our results provide evidence of an association between safety disclosure levels and firm size, social performance, risk, and number of fatalities, while the media attention devoted to mining accidents appears to be unrelated to safety disclosure levels. It is possible that stakeholder pressure, which motivates corporate social disclosures according to legitimacy and stakeholder theories, consists of various factors, which combined form the motivation to report. Media attention, therefore, cannot be considered in isolation as a driver of disclosure. Rather, a combination of variables such as size, social responsibility performance, number of fatalities, risk, and media attention could serve as a proxy for social pressure.


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