Sustainability reporting in the United Arab Emirates : institutional insights
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This thesis attempts to answer the following research question: “What social and institutional factors impact on the current state of affairs concerning the disclosure of social and environmental reporting of listed companies in the UAE and how do they affect the potential for change?” A social constructionist viewpoint is held throughout. The research question is attempted to be answered by using Neo-Institutional Theory as a theoretical lens, including the role of organisational fields as well as Institutional Entrepreneurs. The research is broken down into three phases. The first phase looks at analysing all annual reports and sustainability reports of listed companies in the UAE. The research finds that only 26 out of 148 made any Sustainability Reporting (SR) disclosure, and very few produced qualitatively good reports. The second phase consists of 33 semi-structured in-depth interviews with 22 individuals from 21 organisations. Phase 3 is an in-depth organisational study of a mini organisational field, focusing on one of the most successful organisations in SR from the original sample of 148, as well as an interdependent network organisation. Phase 2 and 3 reveal that there are a complex number of issues currently hindering institutionalisation of SR to occur. However, there are some positive elements that could aid change in future. The research finds the following: The level of SR in the UAE is generally low, as might be expected based on previous research. There are, however, exceptions where companies actively promote sustainability and SR. The cultural context plays a more important role than generally recognised; small organisational fields (‘mini-fields’) play an important role in successful implementation of SR; Institutional Entrepreneurs are important; their success relies on their personal approach including commitment and resilience. For the Institutional Entrepreneur to succeed it is helpful to have a network of like-minded individuals inside and outside the organisation to connect with. The findings also suggest that influence regarding institutionalisation emanates from and towards the organisational context. Connections and interdependence play a critical role; there is evidence that change happens at a more subtle level than previously recognised.