Corporate Disclosure of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Context of Stakeholder Pressures: An Empirical Analysis of Reporting Activity and Completeness

Forthcoming in Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

Posted: 10 Aug 2013 Last revised: 27 Dec 2014

See all articles by Andrea Liesen

Andrea Liesen

Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IOEW)

Andreas G. F. Hoepner

Smurfit Graduate Business School, University College Dublin; European Commission's Platform on Sustainable Finance

Dennis M. Patten

Illinois State University

Frank Figge

ESCP Business School

Date Written: July 24, 2004

Abstract

In this study, we shed light on the practice of disclosure of quantitative Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by companies in Europe. We develop a classification of reporting completeness based on three dominant voluntary reporting guidelines. We find that from 2005 through 2009 only 15 percent of companies that disclose GHG emissions report them in a manner that we consider complete with respect to scope of emissions, type of emissions, and reporting boundary. We subsequently examine whether proxies for exposure to climate change concerns from different stakeholder groups influence the existence and, separately, the completeness of quantitative GHG emissions disclosure. Controlling for factors representing companies’ resources to report, the results of our logistic regression analyses provide evidence that while external stakeholder pressure is a determinant of the existence of GHG emissions disclosure, it is not substantially related to the disclosure completeness. Our findings are consistent with stakeholder theory in that companies appear to respond to stakeholder pressure to report GHG emissions. Results are also consistent with legitimacy theory arguments in that firms may be using incomplete reporting of GHG data, presumably due to the voluntary nature of the disclosure practice, as a symbolic act to maintain legitimacy in the face of the exposures. We conclude that bringing corporate GHG emissions disclosure in line with recommended guidelines will require either more direct stakeholder pressure or, perhaps, a mandated disclosure regime.

Keywords: Environmental disclosure, sustainability reporting, Greenhouse gas, climate change, legitimacy theory, stakeholder theory

Suggested Citation

Liesen, Andrea and Hoepner, Andreas G. F. and Patten, Dennis M. and Figge, Frank, Corporate Disclosure of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Context of Stakeholder Pressures: An Empirical Analysis of Reporting Activity and Completeness (July 24, 2004). Forthcoming in Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2307876 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2307876

Andrea Liesen (Contact Author)

Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IOEW) ( email )

Potsdamer Str. 105
Berlin, 10785
Germany

Andreas G. F. Hoepner

Smurfit Graduate Business School, University College Dublin ( email )

Blackrock, Co. Dublin
Ireland

European Commission's Platform on Sustainable Finance ( email )

2 Rue de Spa
Brussels, 1000
Belgium

Dennis M. Patten

Illinois State University ( email )

Department of Accounting
Normal, IL USA 61761
309-438-7857 (Phone)

Frank Figge

ESCP Business School ( email )

79 avenue de la RĂ©publique
75011
France

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