This study aims to examine biodiversity reporting by South African food producers and retailers. It not only draws attention to the disconnect between reporting on an important environmental issue and the sense of commitment to environmental responsibility, but also shows that over time, organisations are becoming more proactive about biodiversity reporting.
The research uses a content analysis of sustainability and integrated reports and organised hypocrisy as a theoretical framework for analysing biodiversity-related disclosures.
Consistent with an organised hypocrisy framework, the research finds that the several companies rely on corporate reporting to emphasise actions and internal management strategies that are already producing favourable results. In contrast, mission statements, firm policy commitments and forward-looking analysis are avoided. There is, however, evidence to suggest that the gaps between corporate reporting and action may be giving companies the time to reform their practices, align biodiversity disclosures with genuine corporate action and move towards truly integrated business models.
Poor biodiversity reporting raises questions about the extent to which companies are managing serious environmental issues that can have a direct impact on their business models. Improvements in biodiversity reporting also suggest that corporate reporting is maturing and that some organisations are beginning to understand the need for managing their biodiversity impact.
The paper offers empirical evidence on how the disconnect between organisational rhetoric and action is used to manage stakeholder expectations and negate the need for environmental reforms. In this manner, organised hypocrisy is framed as a specific legitimisation strategy. The research also shows that organised hypocrisy is not absolute; despite the opportunity to engage in organised hypocrisy, some companies are taking a more proactive approach to biodiversity reporting. As a result, it may be appropriate to see organised hypocrisy as part of a transition to higher quality integrated or sustainability reporting.
Thanks go to Professors Jill Atkins, Linda de Beer and Robert Garnett for their comments on earlier versions of this paper. The authors would also like to acknowledge the participants of the Meditari Accountancy Research Conferences (2016). Finally, the authors are grateful to Mrs Lelys Maddock for editing this paper and to the British Academy and Newton Foundation for supporting part of the cost of this research project.
Maroun, W., Usher, K. and Mansoor, H. (2018), "Biodiversity reporting and organised hypocrisy", Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 15 No. 4, pp. 437-464. https://doi.org/10.1108/QRAM-07-2017-0066Download as .RIS
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