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Implementing biodiversity reporting: insights from the case of the largest dairy company in China

Yanqi Sun (School of Economics and Management, Beijing Institute of Petrochemical Technology, Beijing, China)
Yvette Lange (School of Accountancy, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 21 December 2022

Issue publication date: 26 January 2023

61

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to explore the biodiversity reporting by the largest dairy company in China (the Yili Group). The authors use signalling theory, legitimacy theory, institutional theory and stakeholder theory to understand the Yili Group’s motivations to report biodiversity disclosures.

Design/methodology/approach

This study uses content analysis, guided by a biodiversity disclosure index, to explore and investigate the disclosure themes and tone for the stand-alone Yili Group biodiversity reports for the period 2017–2019. The content analysis is supplemented by a selection of interviews used to obtain additional insights into the Yili Group’s biodiversity reporting.

Findings

A gradual improvement is noted in the Yili Group’s biodiversity reporting over time, while the need for improvement remains as the Yili Group matures in its reporting. The company tends to report symbolic disclosures rather than substantive ones and is motivated more by external pressures and/or incentives than by morality and/or stakeholder accountability: this pushes the company towards more dominant symbolic biodiversity disclosure practices.

Practical implications

Findings are particularly relevant to the management of Chinese companies planning to publish biodiversity reports or enhance biodiversity disclosure practices as they draw attention to specific aspects of biodiversity reporting which require improvement. Improvements in biodiversity reporting provide a signal that such reporting is maturing and that organizations are recognizing the need for managing their biodiversity impact.

Social implications

Given that the Yili Group is a pioneer among Chinese firms in publishing biodiversity reports, this paper suggests other companies’ imitation of the Yili Group and helps promote the diffusion of biodiversity reporting in China. In addition, this paper provides a basis for a call for Chinese companies to strengthen their awareness and accountability regarding biodiversity and the conservation thereof.

Originality/value

This study is among the first to explore biodiversity reporting and disclosure in a China-based organization. While the study deals with one company, the findings are broadly applicable for other organizations seeking to undertake biodiversity accounting and reporting. Considering that biodiversity accounting is a research area which is still under-investigated, this paper aims to respond to the call of Jones and Solomon (2013) for pushing the boundaries in biodiversity accounting.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors thank Professor Carol Adams (editor in chief), the anonymous associate editor and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive remarks and guidance. We also thank Professor Warren Maroun for his helpful comments.

Citation

Sun, Y. and Lange, Y. (2023), "Implementing biodiversity reporting: insights from the case of the largest dairy company in China", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 14 No. 1, pp. 75-100. https://doi.org/10.1108/SAMPJ-09-2021-0375

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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