Companies without female directors on your boards: you might as well give up your CSR reporting!

In an era where social and environmental responsibility is a central concern for stakeholders (consumers, suppliers, employees, investors, etc.), companies have engaged in a frantic race to disclose extra-financial information.

A report published by the French Financial Markets Authority (l’Autorité des Marchés Financiers) in 2003 points out that, in France, information on social and environmental responsibility represents around 9% of total information contained in listed companies’ annual reports [1]. A separate report issued by KPMG in 2008 [2] highlights that French companies come second in the world after Japan in terms of their corporate responsibility disclosure. Some companies even prepare a specific corporate social responsibility (CSR) report of anything from ten to 100 pages in addition to the information disclosed in their annual report.

This enthusiasm is the result of a succession of laws in France that have significantly contributed to companies’ collective awareness of social and environmental interests. The NRE Law (French Law on “New Economic Regulations”) of May 2001 nevertheless remains the most important element of this legislation, with its requirement for listed companies to disclose social and environmental information (Article 116).

The large volume of information disclosed raises the question of the sincerity of companies’ CSR approach in general and the credibility of the CSR information disclosed in particular. Does this information reflect companies’ growing investment in social and environmental projects? Or is it simply their response to the pressing demands of their stakeholders?

Although the Grenelle II Act of 12 July 2010 appears to address investors’ growing scepticism regarding CSR disclosure by requiring that listed companies and large companies have their CSR reporting verified by an independent third-party body [3], reporting quality is nonetheless also linked to the effectiveness of the company’s internal governance mechanisms.

In this context, our research [4] highlights the role of the board of directors in French companies and its effectiveness with respect to CSR. In particular, we study the relationship between the presence of women on the board of directors and the quality of CSR reporting.

We study large companies listed on the SBF 120 index between 2001 and 2011 [5], and firstly show that French companies with a gender-diverse board of directors show greater interest in CSR as evidenced by broader and more comprehensive voluntary reporting with respect to mandatory reporting items. More importantly, the study shows that the presence of female directors on the board improves the credibility of the information disclosed, generating a positive impact on firm value. Companies with a completely male board of directors, however, find themselves punished by a negative reaction from investors after increasing their level of CSR reporting.

Gender diversity on boards of directors is inseparable from CSR and the involvement of women in the decision-making process has become a prerequisite for good corporate governance. We adopt an innovative approach in our research to add to a long series of studies showing the value added by female board members in terms of attendance rates and monitoring, as well as their greater sensitivity to social and environmental questions.

To conclude, our study confirms previous findings that it is impossible for companies to appear virtuous and socially responsible in the eyes of their stakeholders if they fail to respect one of the most basic rules of CSR, namely the gender diversity of their governance bodies.


[1] AMF. 2003. Report on the Social and Environmental Responsibility Information Published by Listed Companies.[2] KPMG. 2008. KPMG International Survey of Corporate Responsibility Reporting (http://www.kpmg.com).[3] Listed companies have been required to have their CSR reporting verified by an independent third-party body since 2012. Companies with more than 500 employees and a turnover (or total balance sheet) exceeding €100 million have been subject to this requirement since 2016.[4] Nekhili, M., Nagati, H., Chtioui, T., Nekhili, A. 2017. “Gender-diverse board and the relevance of CSR reporting”, International Review of Financial Analysis, Vol. 50, pp. 81–100.[5] The period precedes the adoption in 2012 of the Copé-Zimmermann Law, which requires that the boards of directors of French companies contain at least 40% female members.

Tawhid Chtioui, emlyon business school

Professor and Dean emlyon business school Africa, my research essentially focuses on performance management issues including management control and organizational changes, soft controls effectiveness, governance and organizational performance. My actual work mainly focuses on African issues and contexts. I held scientific and management functions in various business schools in France and taught in various schools and Universities in France and international. I am also a serial entrepreneur and carried on consulting and professional training activities.

More information on Tawhid Chtioui:
• His CV online
His ResearchGate page


Further reading…

  • Nekhili, M., Nagati, H., Chtioui, T., Nekhili, A. 2017. Gender-diverse board and the relevance of CSR reporting. International Review of Financial Analysis, Vol. 50, pp. 81–100. DOI 10.1016/j.irfa.2017.02.003.
    Read abstract online

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May 31st, 2017|

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