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Cross-sectional effects in community disclosures.

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Purpose – This paper seeks to address a gap in the literature in that it explores community disclosures in annual reports examining annual reports for 5 UK FTSE 100 sectors between, 1974 and 2000. Design/methodology/approach – The sample was bifurcated into types – those with higher public profile and those with lower public profile based on a measure of “proximity to end user”. Two approaches were adopted in the paper: longitudinal volumetric word count mean and frequency of disclosure by company. Findings – The two approaches demonstrated that community disclosure was positively associated with public profile. The findings are consistent with reporting behaviour found in other categories of voluntary disclosure, where disclosure has been found to be associated with the presumed information demands of specific stakeholders. Additionally the research supported a legitimacy theory-based explanation of cross-sectional variability in community disclosures. Illustrative disclosures from a number of companies are also presented in the paper. Research limitations/implications – Further areas of research are suggested by these findings. In addition to articulating the potential value of examining community disclosure patterns in other contexts (e.g. in other sectors and other national situations), and in other media (e.g. internet studies), the findings in this study suggest that there may be value in exploring the ways in which voluntary disclosure responds to other external structural variables. Originality/value – The contribution of this paper has been to show that a hitherto less-analysed category of voluntary social disclosure (community disclosure) is cross-sectionally responsive to the structural vulnerability of companies to issues associated with “general” social concern.

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