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Convergence or divergence? Corporate climate-change reporting in China

Helen Hong Yang (College of Business, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia)
Alan Farley (Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia)

International Journal of Accounting & Information Management

ISSN: 1834-7649

Article publication date: 3 October 2016




This paper aims to investigate the extent international and domestic guidelines have influenced the content of corporate environmental reporting (CER) in the context of China’s radical institutional transition from bureaucratic secrecy to openness, marked by the first nationwide guidelines on Open Government Information (OGI) and Open Environment Information (OEI), effective in 2008.


The study develops a research instrument that captures international and Chinese national guidelines pertaining to environmental information disclosure. This instrument is used to analyse 471 reports of leading 100 listed Chinese companies for the critical period between 2006 and 2010. Chi-square test statistics are used to analyse the significance of differences in reporting items supported by Chinese guidelines versus those supported by international reporting guidelines only.


Partial convergence in climate-change reporting co-exists with divergent China specific interpretation of climate change. The coercive institutional influences of the Chinese government’s guidance in OGI and OEI led to the rapid growth of CER in 2008 compared to 2006, despite compliance being voluntary.


The study is innovative in explicitly measuring any changes in reporting relative to the potential for additional reporting. Such a method more accurately evaluates the effect of institutional influences on reporting. The study provides a fresh profile of the content and the reporting medium of CER, with a particular focus on climate change in the Chinese context. The findings highlight research into CER based on annual reports risks results being incomplete and misleading. Findings have practical implications for policy makers in other emerging economies.



The paper benefited from suggestions made by anonymous reviewers, journal editors Maggie Liu and Kamran Ahmed, as well as participants at the 2015 Accounting and Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand (AFAANZ) Conference, and the 2016 Research Symposium of College of Business, Victoria University. The authors also would like to acknowledge Russell Craig’s editorial assistance in the earlier versions of the paper.


Yang, H.H. and Farley, A. (2016), "Convergence or divergence? Corporate climate-change reporting in China", International Journal of Accounting & Information Management, Vol. 24 No. 4, pp. 391-414.



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