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Title: Voluntary environmental reporting: the why, what and how
Author: De Silva, T.-A.
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy
Institution: Lincoln University
Date: 2008
Item Type: Thesis
Abstract: Society is increasingly calling for organisations to demonstrate corporate social responsibility (CSR). To fulfil this demand, organisations need to be accountable, democratic and transparent to their stakeholders. This can be achieved using a number of tools including communication about the environmental, social and economic impacts of an organisation’s actions and activities. Yet despite the importance of communicating environmental information, and society’s heightened environmental awareness, organisations are still demonstrating an insufficient commitment to environmental reporting, continuing their reluctance to be open and accountable about their environmental impacts. This suggests organisations currently have little understanding of why they should report, what they should report and/or how they should report. For environmental reporting progress to be achieved it is important that we have knowledge of how various factors influence voluntary environmental reporting engagement. This research, in contributing to and extending the body of environmental reporting knowledge, aims to provide an understanding of the Why, What and How of voluntary environmental reporting by specifically examining: why organisations should, and why organisations do, voluntarily report environmental information; what environmental information organisations should, and what environmental information organisations do, voluntarily report; and how organisations should, and how organisations do, voluntarily report environmental information. In using a combination of research methodologies this research extends prior CSR reporting studies – closing the gap between voluntary environmental reporting practice and theory, providing better insights into the underlying reasons and motivations for voluntary environmental reporting, and providing improved knowledge of the considerations made by companies as part of the voluntary environmental reporting process. In doing so, this research presents a more recent examination of voluntary environmental reporting in the annual reports of New Zealand and Australian publicly listed companies. Aspects of voluntary environmental reporting that have not been extensively examined before, particularly in Australasia, are examined. These include a focus on content-quality (as opposed to reporting quantity), an investigation of the effect of public pressure (using a combination of three proxy measures), and, through the use of qualitative research, an expansion of the insights obtained from quantitative data. This research finds that New Zealand and Australian publicly listed companies continue to have an insufficient and incorrect understanding of why they should report, what they should report and/or how they should voluntarily report environmental information. This deficient understanding results in voluntary environmental reporting in their annual reports which is inadequate – the reporting lacks meaning and purpose (i.e. has form but little or no substance), and reflects managers’ incorrect perceptions about the environmental impact of their company’s actions and activities. As a result voluntary environmental reporting in the annual reports of New Zealand and Australian publicly listed companies fails to “… give an understanding, which is not misleading, …” of the environmental consequences of an organisation’s actions and activities (adapted from Alexander & Jermakowicz, 2006, p. 132), providing little accountability to stakeholders, and serving neither external stakeholders nor those reporting well. As the demand for organisations to demonstrate accountability to stakeholders continues to increase over time it is important to develop informed environmental reporting guidance and undertake further examinations of the Why, What and How of environmental reporting.
Supervisor: Wright, Christopher
Radford, Jack
Persistent URL (URI):
Appears in Collections:Department of Financial and Business Systems
Doctoral (PhD) Theses

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