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Private climate change reporting: an emerging discourse of risk and opportunity?

Jill F. Solomon (King's College London, University of London, London, UK)
Aris Solomon (Faculty of Business, Athabasca University, Athabasca, Canada)
Simon D. Norton (Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)
Nathan L. Joseph (Aston Business School, Aston University, Birmingham, UK)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 25 October 2011

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to explore the nature of the emerging discourse of private climate change reporting, which takes place in one‐on‐one meetings between institutional investors and their investee companies.

Design/methodology/approach

Semi‐structured interviews were conducted with representatives from 20 UK investment institutions to derive data which was then coded and analysed, in order to derive a picture of the emerging discourse of private climate change reporting, using an interpretive methodological approach, in addition to explorative analysis using NVivo software.

Findings

The authors find that private climate change reporting is dominated by a discourse of risk and risk management. This emerging risk discourse derives from institutional investors' belief that climate change represents a material risk, that it is the most salient sustainability issue, and that their clients require them to manage climate change‐related risk within their portfolio investment. It is found that institutional investors are using the private reporting process to compensate for the acknowledged inadequacies of public climate change reporting. Contrary to evidence indicating corporate capture of public sustainability reporting, these findings suggest that the emerging private climate change reporting discourse is being captured by the institutional investment community. There is also evidence of an emerging discourse of opportunity in private climate change reporting as the institutional investors are increasingly aware of a range of ways in which climate change presents material opportunities for their investee companies to exploit. Lastly, the authors find an absence of any ethical discourse, such that private climate change reporting reinforces rather than challenges the “business case” status quo.

Originality/value

Although there is a wealth of sustainability reporting research, there is no academic research on private climate change reporting. This paper attempts to fill this gap by providing rich interview evidence regarding the nature of the emerging private climate change reporting discourse.

Keywords

Citation

Solomon, J.F., Solomon, A., Norton, S.D. and Joseph, N.L. (2011), "Private climate change reporting: an emerging discourse of risk and opportunity?", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 24 No. 8, pp. 1119-1148. https://doi.org/10.1108/09513571111184788

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited