The Role and Effectiveness of Corporate Social Responsibility Assurance in a Mandatory Setting: Professional Accountants’ Perceptions

  • Isabelle Martinez TMS-R (UMR 5303 CNRS), University of Toulouse 1 Capitole, Toulouse, France
  • Claire Gillet-Monjarret MRM University of Montpellier, Montpellier, France
  • Geraldine Rivière-Giordano MRM University of Montpellier, Montpellier, France
Keywords: Corporate social responsibility, Sustainable assurance, Experimental questionnaire, Professional accountants


Firms using corporate social responsibility assurance (or CSRA) recruit an external and independent third party to undertake assurance of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) information that they disclose. From a theoretical perspective, CSRA may play a role within two distinct mechanisms: the signaling mechanism, whereby CSRA signals both the quality of the disclosed information and firms’ CSR performance, and the legitimizing mechanism, whereby CSRA is strategically used as a ‘sophisticated’ compliance exercise. Thus, while the signaling theory predicts that CSRA should provide the expected benefits for its intended users, studies based on the legitimacy theory question the effectiveness of CSRA. In an attempt to disentangle which mechanism is dominant, this study investigates how professional accountants, as assurance providers, perceive CSRA and its effectiveness. We use an online questionnaire survey involving a between-subjects experimental design with 104 French professional accountants as participants. The quantitative and qualitative results suggest, in line with legitimacy theory, that CSRA is used more as a compliance exercise than as an effective signal. We advance the idea that in the French setting, in which CSRA is mandatory, it is used by firms to create the illusion of transparency by complying with disclosure requirements. However, we offer an alternative interpretation by arguing that some professional accountants may in fact seek to resist the implementation of mandatory CSRA using a strategy of justification.


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Author Biographies

Isabelle Martinez, TMS-R (UMR 5303 CNRS), University of Toulouse 1 Capitole, Toulouse, France

Isabelle Martinez is full professor at the University of Toulouse Paul Sabatier and member of TSM-R (UMR 5303 CNRS) at the University of Toulouse 1 Capitole. Her research interests are in the area of corporate governance and (non)financial disclosures focusing on corporate social responsibility and climate-change reporting. She has published several papers in peer-reviewed academic journals such as International Review of Law and Economics, Journal of Economic Surveys, Review of Finance, Accounting in Europe and Comptabilité - ContrôleAudit.

Claire Gillet-Monjarret , MRM University of Montpellier, Montpellier, France

Claire Gillet-Monjarret is associate professor at the University of Montpellier and a member of the Montpellier Research in Management laboratory (MRM). Her research focuses on the issues of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and social and environmental accounting. Her research work mainly deals with questions relating to the assurance of sustainability information and the role of chartered accountants in the implementation of CSR practices.

Geraldine Rivière-Giordano , MRM University of Montpellier, Montpellier, France

Geraldine Rivière-Giordano is associate professor in financial accounting in MOMA Institute at the University of Montpellier. She is a member of the Montpellier Research in Management laboratory (MRM) and is co-responsible for the accounting research group. Her research topics mainly deal with social reporting, sustainability assurance, accounting for carbon and the adaptation of the accounting profession to the CSR issues.


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How to Cite
Martinez I., Gillet-Monjarret C., & Rivière-Giordano G. (2021). The Role and Effectiveness of Corporate Social Responsibility Assurance in a Mandatory Setting: Professional Accountants’ Perceptions. M@n@gement, 24(1), 59-79.
Original Research Articles