While a number of studies of Corporate Social Disclosure (CSD) focus on the annual report as the principal means of communication, this paper presents an exploratory examination of the Social Impact Reports of a large, Australian company – Westpac Banking Corporation Ltd – for the period 2002-2004. It considers whether there is a relationship between media attention and disclosures made in Westpac’s reports, in light of Legitimacy Theory. Westpac’s reports were prepared in a formulaic manner, the disclosures were generally positive with little quantitative data, and covered the areas of environment, customer, employees and community. Westpac’s disclosures appeared to be direct attempts to defend organisational legitimacy. Evidence of large amounts of disclosures made relating to issues of little public concern, indicated that most of the CSD made in Westpac’s reports were aimed at (1) extending and maintaining a high level of legitimacy, rather than defending it; and (2) deflecting attention from issues of low legitimacy to those with high legitimacy.


Published in Full, Social impact reports, corporate social disclosure, Westpac, media attention, legitimacy theory


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