PurposeThis study empirically examines perceptions of environmental report believability based on a firm's relative performance and level of assurance obtained on environmental activities under the recently clarified and recodified attestation standards in the United States.Design/methodology/approachThe paper uses a 2 × 3 between-subjects experiment to identify differences in 153 non-expert environmental report users' perceptions of report believability based on positive or negative firm performance and (level of) assurance provided by an accounting firm.FindingsResults show a main effect in that negative performance reports are perceived to be more believable than positive performance reports, as driven by negative performance reports being significantly more believable when no assurance is present. The firm performance effect is eliminated once limited or reasonable assurance is provided. Further, positive performance reports with limited, but not reasonable, assurance are perceived to be more believable than reports without assurance. No differences are identified within the negative performance condition.Practical implicationsLimited assurance might be used as an impression management tool to enhance the believability of positive performance environmental reports. Users, practitioners, and standard-setters should also be aware that users might believe environmental reports are assured, even when no such assurance has been provided.Originality/valueThis paper examines the impact of assured environmental reporting on users that review firms' environmental reports outside of a shareholder/investor role. The study also demonstrates conditions in which firm performance and assurance impact perceptions of report believability.
Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Feb 28, 2020
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