Mandatory Non-financial Disclosure and Its Influence on CSR: An International Comparison

  • Gregory JacksonEmail author
  • Julia Bartosch
  • Emma Avetisyan
  • Daniel Kinderman
  • Jette Steen Knudsen
Original Paper


The article examines the effects of non-financial disclosure (NFD) on corporate social responsibility (CSR). We conceptualise trade-offs between two ideal types (government regulation and business self-regulation) in relation to CSR. Whereas self-regulation is associated with greater flexibility for businesses to develop best practices, it can also lead to complacency if firms feel no external pressure to engage with CSR. In contrast, government regulation is associated with greater stringency around minimum standards, but can also result in rigidity owing to a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Given these potential trade-offs, we ask how mandatory non-financial disclosure has been shaping CSR practices and examine its potential effectiveness as a regulatory instrument. Our analysis of 24 OECD countries using the Asset4 database shows that firms in countries that require non-financial disclosure adopt significantly more CSR activities. However, we also find that NFD regulation does not lead to lower levels of corporate irresponsibility. Furthermore, our analysis demonstrates that, over time, the variation in CSR activities declines as firms adopt increasingly similar practices. Our study thereby contributes to understanding the impact of government regulation on CSR at firm level. We also discuss the limits of mandatory NFD in addressing regulatory trade-offs between stringency and flexibility in the field of corporate social responsibility.


Corporate social responsibility Corporate social irresponsibility Mandatory non-financial disclosure Private governance 



This study was supported through a grant awarded by the Bertelsmann Foundation in 2016 and has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No. 645763.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The research was conducted in compliance with research ethics policies at the university of the first author. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gregory Jackson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Julia Bartosch
    • 1
  • Emma Avetisyan
    • 2
  • Daniel Kinderman
    • 3
  • Jette Steen Knudsen
    • 4
  1. 1.Freie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Audencia Business SchoolNantesFrance
  3. 3.University of DelawareNewarkUSA
  4. 4.Tufts UniversityMedfordUSA

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