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The impact of board composition on the level of ESG disclosures in GCC countries

Mahmoud Arayssi ( Lebanese American University , Beirut, Lebanon)
Mohammad Jizi (Department of Finance and Accounting, Lebanese American University , Beirut, Lebanon)
Hala Hussein Tabaja (School of Business, Lebanese American University , Beirut, Lebanon)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 28 October 2019

Issue publication date: 6 January 2020

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to investigate the impact of board composition on environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting in the Gulf countries. Despite the vast literature on the significance of ESG disclosure on firms’ performance, trust and reputation, there are relatively few studies on the influence of board structure on ESG disclosure in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Gulf countries are witnessing a fast growing capital markets and having serious efforts to attract foreign investments to divert their economies from the oil and gas reliance. This could be facilitated by illustrating firms’ good citizenship and communicating the fulfillment of their social obligation.

Design/methodology/approach

The study examines publically listed companies between 2008 and 2017. Thomson Reuter’s database is used to collect the ESG disclosure scores and governance information. The authors apply multiple panel data regressions and sensitivity testing to ensure the robustness of the results.

Findings

Examining publically listed companies for a 10-year period shows that higher board independence and female board participation facilitate the transmission of a firm’s positive image by improving social responsibility. Independent boards of directors and participation among women serve as catalysts to strike an effective balance between firms’ financial targets and social responsibilities. In contrast, boards chaired by chief executive officers are less supportive in executing a social agenda and consequently reporting their ESG activities.

Practical implications

The results suggest that firms that appoint a sustainability and/or governance committee tend to engage in more impactful social and environmental activities and communicate their societal engagements more effectively.

Social implications

The paper recommends that policymakers, executives and shareholders in the GCC countries support board participation among women, independent directors and formation of sustainability committees to facilitate engaging in effectual social activities.

Originality/value

Empirical evidence regarding the relationship between board composition and ESG disclosure in the Gulf countries is limited. Prior literature mainly provides results on developed countries in which the governance system is mature and well structured. This study provides useful evidence regarding the Gulf countries that lack privatization and where corporate boards tend to be dominated by families and governments.

Keywords

Citation

Arayssi, M., Jizi, M. and Tabaja, H.H. (2020), "The impact of board composition on the level of ESG disclosures in GCC countries", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 11 No. 1, pp. 137-161. https://doi.org/10.1108/SAMPJ-05-2018-0136

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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