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The relationships between reporting format, environmental disclosure and environmental performance: An empirical study

Abeer Hassan and Xin Guo

Journal of Applied Accounting Research, 2017, vol. 18, issue 4, 425-444

Abstract: Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to assess whether European companies issue standalone environmental reports in an attempt to gain and maintain legitimacy with relevant stakeholders. This is achieved by creating and empirically testing a model of the relationships between corporate reporting format, industry membership, environmental disclosure, and environmental performance. Design/methodology/approach - Data are collected from 100 large European companies in carbon and non-carbon-intensive industries. Hypothesis testing is conducted via structure equation modeling. Findings - Evidence exists that companies which disclose environmental information in standalone environmental reports tend to provide higher levels of environmental information than companies which combine financial and environmental disclosure in annual reports. The findings support greenwashing as a new perspective of legitimacy theory: companies in carbon-intensive industry use standalone environmental reports to pose as good corporate citizens even when they are not. Research limitations/implications - The sample companies are large European companies and this could limit the generalizability of research findings. The authors call for longitudinal studies examining how the relationship between reporting format and environmental disclosure changes. Practical implications - This paper suggests that reporting format be considered a proactive, strategic communication-driven activity rather than a decision that managers passively make in response to external scrutiny. Originality/value - The paper contributes to the literature by adding to the scarce evidence of the relationship between reporting format and environmental disclosure. Greenwashing as a new perspective of legitimacy theory is used to develop research hypotheses.

Keywords: Environmental disclosure; Legitimacy theory; Environmental performance; Greenwashing; Industry membership; Reporting format (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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