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The impact of readability of corporate social responsibility information on credibility as perceived by generalist versus specialist readers

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Abstract
<jats:sec> <jats:title content-type="abstract-subheading">Purpose</jats:title> <jats:p>This paper aims to study the impact of readability of corporate social responsibility (CSR) information on its credibility as perceived by generalist versus specialist readers. It is hypothesized that the readability-credibility effect will be contingent on reader specialization.</jats:p> </jats:sec> <jats:sec> <jats:title content-type="abstract-subheading">Design/methodology/approach</jats:title> <jats:p>To test the hypothesis, a quasi-experiment with a 2 (readability) × 2 (reader specialization) design was conducted.</jats:p> </jats:sec> <jats:sec> <jats:title content-type="abstract-subheading">Findings</jats:title> <jats:p>Overall, the results lead to the conclusion that using plain language in CSR disclosures may be beneficial for their credibility as perceived by generalist readers thanks to their higher perceived truthfulness (one specific sub-dimension of credibility). Specialist readers’ perceived credibility, on the other hand, is not influenced by the enhanced readability resulting from plain language.</jats:p> </jats:sec> <jats:sec> <jats:title content-type="abstract-subheading">Research limitations/implications</jats:title> <jats:p>Student participants were used. The results may not be generalizable to practitioners with different levels of exposure to, familiarity with, and understanding of CSR disclosures.</jats:p> </jats:sec> <jats:sec> <jats:title content-type="abstract-subheading">Practical implications</jats:title> <jats:p>Given the lack of credibility of CSR disclosures, insight into perceived credibility antecedents is important. This study may be considered as a first step toward informing reporting standards regarding the inclusion of more detailed guidance on how corporations should formulate their CSR information to increase its perceived credibility.</jats:p> </jats:sec> <jats:sec> <jats:title content-type="abstract-subheading">Originality/value</jats:title> <jats:p>The results suggest that enhanced readability may improve the potential of CSR reports as legitimacy tools for generalist readers. The direct examination of readers complements prior studies on CSR reporting quality and the language used in CSR disclosures.</jats:p> </jats:sec>
Keywords
Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment, General Business, Management and Accounting

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Chicago
Hoozée, Sophie, Sophie Maussen, and Perry Vangronsveld. 2019. “The Impact of Readability of Corporate Social Responsibility Information on Credibility as Perceived by Generalist Versus Specialist Readers.” Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal: 570–591.
APA
Hoozée, S., Maussen, S., & Vangronsveld, P. (2019). The impact of readability of corporate social responsibility information on credibility as perceived by generalist versus specialist readers. Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, 570–591.
Vancouver
1.
Hoozée S, Maussen S, Vangronsveld P. The impact of readability of corporate social responsibility information on credibility as perceived by generalist versus specialist readers. Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal. 2019;570–91.
MLA
Hoozée, Sophie, Sophie Maussen, and Perry Vangronsveld. “The Impact of Readability of Corporate Social Responsibility Information on Credibility as Perceived by Generalist Versus Specialist Readers.” Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal (2019): 570–591. Print.
@article{8624994,
  abstract     = {<jats:sec>
<jats:title content-type="abstract-subheading">Purpose</jats:title>
<jats:p>This paper aims to study the impact of readability of corporate social responsibility (CSR) information on its credibility as perceived by generalist versus specialist readers. It is hypothesized that the readability-credibility effect will be contingent on reader specialization.</jats:p>
</jats:sec>
<jats:sec>
<jats:title content-type="abstract-subheading">Design/methodology/approach</jats:title>
<jats:p>To test the hypothesis, a quasi-experiment with a 2 (readability) × 2 (reader specialization) design was conducted.</jats:p>
</jats:sec>
<jats:sec>
<jats:title content-type="abstract-subheading">Findings</jats:title>
<jats:p>Overall, the results lead to the conclusion that using plain language in CSR disclosures may be beneficial for their credibility as perceived by generalist readers thanks to their higher perceived truthfulness (one specific sub-dimension of credibility). Specialist readers’ perceived credibility, on the other hand, is not influenced by the enhanced readability resulting from plain language.</jats:p>
</jats:sec>
<jats:sec>
<jats:title content-type="abstract-subheading">Research limitations/implications</jats:title>
<jats:p>Student participants were used. The results may not be generalizable to practitioners with different levels of exposure to, familiarity with, and understanding of CSR disclosures.</jats:p>
</jats:sec>
<jats:sec>
<jats:title content-type="abstract-subheading">Practical implications</jats:title>
<jats:p>Given the lack of credibility of CSR disclosures, insight into perceived credibility antecedents is important. This study may be considered as a first step toward informing reporting standards regarding the inclusion of more detailed guidance on how corporations should formulate their CSR information to increase its perceived credibility.</jats:p>
</jats:sec>
<jats:sec>
<jats:title content-type="abstract-subheading">Originality/value</jats:title>
<jats:p>The results suggest that enhanced readability may improve the potential of CSR reports as legitimacy tools for generalist readers. The direct examination of readers complements prior studies on CSR reporting quality and the language used in CSR disclosures.</jats:p>
</jats:sec>},
  author       = {Hoozée, Sophie and Maussen, Sophie and Vangronsveld, Perry},
  issn         = {2040-8021},
  journal      = {Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal},
  keywords     = {Renewable Energy,Sustainability and the Environment,General Business,Management and Accounting},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {570--591},
  title        = {The impact of readability of corporate social responsibility information on credibility as perceived by generalist versus specialist readers},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/sampj-03-2018-0056},
  year         = {2019},
}

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