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Just Look at the Numbers: A Case Study on Quantification in Corporate Environmental Disclosures

Janne Järvinen (), Matias Laine (), Timo Hyvönen () and Hannele Kantola ()
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Janne Järvinen: Oulu Business School, University of Oulu
Matias Laine: Tampere University
Timo Hyvönen: Tampere University
Hannele Kantola: Oulu Business School, University of Oulu

Journal of Business Ethics, 2022, vol. 175, issue 1, No 4, 23-44

Abstract: Abstract This paper sheds further light on the role of quantification in corporate environmental disclosures. Quantification is an inherently social practice, which has attracted a fair amount of academic interest in recent years. At the same time, in the field of social and environmental accounting there is a paucity of research on quantification or the role it plays for organisations, for organisational communication and in societies more broadly. Accordingly, in this paper, we will draw on a qualitative case study to discuss the potential implications that might arise from the use of quantified information in corporate environmental disclosures. Our case study illustrates the diverse effects of quantification suggested in the prior literature by placing them in the context of corporate environmental disclosures. We discuss how quantification implies fake precisionism and promotes commensuration of incomparables, thereby limiting the discussion to themes and questions preferred by company management. We maintain that quantification, while appearing to produce neutral and value-free information, has a substantive ethical dimension through how it implicates accountability relationships as well as the respective power relations between diverse stakeholders in societies.

Keywords: Environmental disclosures; Quantification; Ethics of numbers; Case study (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1007/s10551-020-04600-7

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