The dialectics of corporate reporting : a semiotic analysis of corporate financial and environmental reporting
The central argument to this thesis is that the nature and purpose of corporate reporting has changed over time to become a more outward looking and forward looking document designed to promote the company and its performance to a wide range of shareholders, rather than merely to report to its owners upon past performance. it is argued that the discourse of environmental accounting and reporting is one driver for this change but that this discourse has been set up as in conflicting with the discourse of traditional accounting and performance measurement. The effect of this opposition between the discourses is that the two have been interpreted to be different and incompatible dimensions of performance with good performance along one dimension only being achievable through a sacrifice of performance along the other dimension. Thus a perceived dialectic in performance is believed to exist. One of the principal purposes of this thesis is to explore this perceived dialectic and, through analysis, to show that it does not exist and that there is not incompatibility. This exploration and analysis is based upon an investigation of the inherent inconsistencies in such corporate reports and the analysis makes use of both a statistical analysis and a semiotic analysis of corporate reports and the reported performance of companies along these dimensions. Thus the development of a semiology of corporate reporting is one of the significant outcomes of this thesis. A further outcome is a consideration of the implications of the analysis for corporate performance and its measurement. The thesis concludes with a consideration of the way in which the advent of electronic reporting may affect the ability of organisations to maintain the dialectic and the implications for corporate reporting.