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Disparities in ESG reporting by emerging Chinese enterprises: evidence from a global financial center

Artie W. Ng (Centre for Sustainable Business, International Business University, Toronto, Canada)
Tiffany Cheng Han Leung (Faculty of Business, City University of Macau, Macau, China)
Tao-Wang Yu (Division of Science, Engineering and Health Studies, College of Professional and Continuing Education, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, China)
Charles H. Cho (Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto, Canada)
Tai Ming Wut (Division of Business and Hospitality Management, College of Professional and Continuing Education, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, China)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 17 February 2023

Issue publication date: 5 April 2023

1083

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to examine the potential disparities in environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting among emerging Chinese enterprises (ECEs). ECEs are subject to a set of internationally oriented ESG requirements imposed by the regulator of a global financial center that is exposed to diverse stakeholders. The authors also consider ECEs’ underlying institutional ownership, which exhibits influence over governance as a salient component of ESG.

Design/methodology/approach

This study is based on a random sample of 500 ECEs listed on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong (SEHK) – the global financial center of China. ESG reporting is measured by using the key performance indicators of the SEHK’s ESG Reporting Guide. The data are collected from annual reports that contain ESG disclosures or standalone ESG/sustainability reports published during the 2018–2019 fiscal year. The authors adopt binary logistic regressions and Chi-square tests to test the proposed hypotheses.

Findings

The authors find that ECEs’ heterogeneous institutional ownership and the extent of overseas development are associated with their disclosures on climate change. ECEs with international institutional ownership are found to be a significant factor for reporting aligned with the United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs), using external assurance and stakeholder engagement, rather than state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and private companies. The authors also document that the presence of independent nonexecutive directors (INEDs) is significantly associated with reporting on meeting the SDGs and its use of external assurance, while the presence of female directors is a significant factor influencing disclosure emphasis on energy-saving initiatives.

Practical implications

The authors provide an empirical study of ECEs beyond the focus on SOEs that are expected to produce comprehensive ESG reporting in addressing a broader international community of stakeholders apart from the regime of their home country. The authors document the pertinence of ECEs’ institutional ownership and governance diversity to ESG reporting. In particular, international stakeholders need to recognize such underlying differences among ECEs rather than viewing them as a homogeneous group.

Social implications

The authors suggest that policymakers and practitioners in Asian countries consider increasing the presence of INEDs and gender diversity on ECE boards to enhance ESG reporting, which reinforces the findings of prior international studies suggesting such governance practices.

Originality/value

This study contributes to the existing body of knowledge about ESG reporting by documenting the underlying heterogeneity within ECEs, which are subject to a set of internationally oriented standards, as evidenced by their disparities in ESG reporting.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to express their sincere gratitude to BDO Hong Kong for collecting the data and sharing them for conducting this empirical study. Charles H. Cho also acknowledges the support provided by the Erivan K. Haub Chair in Business and Sustainability at the Schulich School of Business and the Global Research Network program through the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2016S1A2A2912421).

Citation

Ng, A.W., Leung, T.C.H., Yu, T.-W., Cho, C.H. and Wut, T.M. (2023), "Disparities in ESG reporting by emerging Chinese enterprises: evidence from a global financial center", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 343-368. https://doi.org/10.1108/SAMPJ-08-2021-0323

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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