Best practice or PR strategy? : Integrated reports as impression management in a Swedish mining company

Detta är en Uppsats för yrkesexamina på avancerad nivå från Luleå tekniska universitet/Institutionen för ekonomi, teknik och samhälle; Luleå tekniska universitet/Institutionen för ekonomi, teknik och samhälle

Sammanfattning: Environmental and social problems are often connected to the mining industry. Hence, there is a history of conflicts between industry actors and stakeholders such as non-governmental organizations, regional politicians, environmental authorities, academics, community researchers, tourism industry and indigenous people. Despite being criticized for some of its work on sustainability, mining companies have indeed improved their communication regarding sustainability and are even considered to be at the forefront of corporate sustainability communication in general, predominantly in the area of sustainability, or integrated, reporting. Thus, a question is how the mining industry can be seen at the cutting edge regarding sustainability communication while also considered as one of the most unsustainable industries? One way of approaching such questions in the field of accounting and control is through the analytical framework of impression management, focusing on how companies through their reporting manage impressions of themselves on their stakeholders. Despite the strategic importance in which the information is presented in integrated reports, the full range of impression management techniques suggested by Brennan et al. (2009) has not, to our knowledge, been used to understand integrated reports in the mining industry. The Swedish mining company, Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara AB (LKAB), wholly owned by the Swedish state and Europe’s largest producer of iron ore, has been selected as a case company due to its ambition to become a world leader in “best practices” on social and environmental aspects. The purpose of this thesis is to make a detailed review of the integrated reports published by LKAB (2008-2017) through the lens of impression management and decode the expressiveness of impressions related to both qualitative and quantitative information. Using such a lense this study provides evidence that the company distorts information to appear as better rather than report performance objectively. The composite bias score indicates the degree to which information is angled against positive or negative aspects. When the result shows +1, the company is completely positively biased, while -1 indicates that the company is completely negatively biased. The mean of bias score for the years between 2008-2017, shows that the qualitative (quantitative) information totals to 0.76 (0.51) which indicates that both measurements are positively biased. A high score of impression management increases the potential for erroneous decision-making by stakeholders. Furthermore, a comprehensive test of the differences in impression management confirms that a higher result of qualitative and quantitative information occurs when the company performs well and is located in the upper quartile related to profit for the year. The reason is due to the fact that a positive result is related to increased figures which  is reflected in the measurement of quantitative impression management. Hence, a measure of impression management related to Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), indicates that G4 has lower bias score related to both qualitative and quantitative information. GRI G4 is a more comprehensive standard compared to the earlier version, G3. G4 generally causes the case company to report more information. In view of this, it is possible to note that G4 entails a more transparent accounting and reduces the scope for impression management.

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