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Evaluating the quality of carbon disclosures

Evaluating the quality of carbon disclosures This paper aims to examine the differences in quality and quantity of disclosures dealing with greenhouse gas emissions among companies with a relatively large or small carbon footprint. It also considers whether disclosures are being included in the primary report to stakeholders (an integrated report) or in a secondary source (a sustainability report).Design/methodology/approachA comprehensive carbon disclosure checklist was constructed based on professional and academic literature to identify and categorise carbon disclosures. Quality is gauged according to a multi-dimensional assessment derived from prior research based on density of reporting, disclosure attributes, management orientation, integration of information, ease of analysis, reporting on strategy, use of independent assurance and repetition. A content analysis is used to gauge the quantity and quality of carbon disclosures of 50 companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Differences in the quantity and quality scores of high- and low-carbon companies are tested using a Mann–Whitney U test.FindingsCarbon disclosures are used as part of a legitimacy management exercise. This involves not just the use of additional environmental disclosure to placate stakeholders as environmental impact grows. The quality of reporting and location of disclosures are, perhaps, more important for understanding how companies are responding to stakeholder expectations for reporting on carbon emissions and climate change.Practical implicationsDespite mounting scientific evidence on the risks posed by climate changes, companies remain reluctant to commit to high-quality reporting on specific steps being taken to reduce carbon emissions. Even when disclosures are being targeted at key stakeholders, the possibility of impression management remains. It may, therefore, be necessary to have carbon reporting regulated and independently assured. More guidance on how companies should be managing and reporting on carbon emissions and climate change may also be required.Social implicationsDespite mounting scientific evidence on the risks posed by climate changes, companies remain reluctant to commit to high-quality reporting on specific steps being taken to reduce carbon emissions. Even when disclosures are being targeted at key stakeholders, the possibility of impression management remains. It may, therefore, be necessary to have carbon reporting regulated and independently assured. More guidance on how companies should be managing and reporting on carbon emissions and climate change may also be required.Originality/valueThe study merges the traditional approach of focusing on the quantity of disclosures to illustrate the application of legitimacy theory in a sustainability/integrated reporting setting with less-seldom-studied quality and location of reporting. This result provides a more nuanced perspective of how carbon disclosures are being used to manage stakeholders’ reporting expectations. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal Emerald Publishing

Evaluating the quality of carbon disclosures

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
© Emerald Publishing Limited
ISSN
2040-8021
DOI
10.1108/sampj-03-2018-0081
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This paper aims to examine the differences in quality and quantity of disclosures dealing with greenhouse gas emissions among companies with a relatively large or small carbon footprint. It also considers whether disclosures are being included in the primary report to stakeholders (an integrated report) or in a secondary source (a sustainability report).Design/methodology/approachA comprehensive carbon disclosure checklist was constructed based on professional and academic literature to identify and categorise carbon disclosures. Quality is gauged according to a multi-dimensional assessment derived from prior research based on density of reporting, disclosure attributes, management orientation, integration of information, ease of analysis, reporting on strategy, use of independent assurance and repetition. A content analysis is used to gauge the quantity and quality of carbon disclosures of 50 companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Differences in the quantity and quality scores of high- and low-carbon companies are tested using a Mann–Whitney U test.FindingsCarbon disclosures are used as part of a legitimacy management exercise. This involves not just the use of additional environmental disclosure to placate stakeholders as environmental impact grows. The quality of reporting and location of disclosures are, perhaps, more important for understanding how companies are responding to stakeholder expectations for reporting on carbon emissions and climate change.Practical implicationsDespite mounting scientific evidence on the risks posed by climate changes, companies remain reluctant to commit to high-quality reporting on specific steps being taken to reduce carbon emissions. Even when disclosures are being targeted at key stakeholders, the possibility of impression management remains. It may, therefore, be necessary to have carbon reporting regulated and independently assured. More guidance on how companies should be managing and reporting on carbon emissions and climate change may also be required.Social implicationsDespite mounting scientific evidence on the risks posed by climate changes, companies remain reluctant to commit to high-quality reporting on specific steps being taken to reduce carbon emissions. Even when disclosures are being targeted at key stakeholders, the possibility of impression management remains. It may, therefore, be necessary to have carbon reporting regulated and independently assured. More guidance on how companies should be managing and reporting on carbon emissions and climate change may also be required.Originality/valueThe study merges the traditional approach of focusing on the quantity of disclosures to illustrate the application of legitimacy theory in a sustainability/integrated reporting setting with less-seldom-studied quality and location of reporting. This result provides a more nuanced perspective of how carbon disclosures are being used to manage stakeholders’ reporting expectations.

Journal

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy JournalEmerald Publishing

Published: Apr 23, 2020

Keywords: Content analysis; Legitimacy theory; Integrated reporting; Carbon reporting

References