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Social reporting, engagements, controversies and conflict in an arena context

Georgakopoul, G. and Thomson, I. (2008) Social reporting, engagements, controversies and conflict in an arena context. Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, 21 (8). pp. 1116-1143. ISSN 0951-3574

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Abstract

Purpose: To empirically investigate relationships between engagement activities and social reporting practices in a controversial and environmentally sensitive industry. The interactions investigated were not restricted to stakeholder relationships but included other communications between different stakeholders. This paper presents a case study approach framed within a contested political arena. Data was gathered using multiple methods including interviews with salmon farming organisations, stakeholders, rule-enforcers, issue amplifiers and political institutions. All arena participants used social reports in their interactions to communicate the social, environmental and economic consequences of salmon farming. Different social reporting practices appeared to be reflexively related to the competing motivations of different stakeholders. However, social reporting in Scottish salmon farming was fragmented, driven by many different factors and did not necessarily lead to a resolution of the conflicts within this arena. Researching social reporting should consider the co-existence and co-evolution of different social reports, competing motivations and engagement tactics of stakeholders. This paper identifies the construction of holistic reports from multiple reports and issue amplification as two research methods to engage in social and environmental policy debates. This paper presents empirical evidence from an under-researched industry, which has the potential to develop our theoretical understanding of social reporting. It also introduces the arena concept as a useful tool in further social reporting research.