Accounting for the Environment: More Talk and Little Progress: Volume 5


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(13 chapters)
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Research in the field of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has grown exponentially in the last few decades. Nevertheless, significant debate remains about the relationship between CSR performance and corporate financial performance (CFP). This is particularly true for the case of Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs). The purpose of the current study is to empirically test the relationship between CSR and CFP. We use data for 66 Chinese SOEs listed on the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges. The results are interesting in that they are not consistent with similar studies using US and other Western market data. We find a significant negative relationship between CSR performance and CFP. The results are discussed in light of the preferential government treatment afforded to Chinese SOEs, and social welfare requirements imposed on such entities. Implications for Chinese policy-makers are discussed.


Although companies are increasingly embracing the sustainability discourse in their external reporting and disclosures, little is known about how management control systems support sustainability within organizations. This is unfortunate, given the important role that properly designed Sustainability Control Systems (SCS) may play in helping firms to better face their social and environmental responsibilities. Starting from these premises, the aim of this essay is twofold. On the one hand, we present a review of the emerging stream of research on sustainability and management control mechanisms, in order to identify and discuss the link between the two. On the other hand, we try to illustrate the main unaddressed issues in this literature as a premise to exploring one possible way to advance research in this area. Specifically, we make a call for a more holistic approach to the study of SCS, which considers also their organizational and cultural dimensions in addition to their technical properties. A framework for informing future work on the topic is proposed, based on the concept of ‘control package’ (Malmi & Brown, 2008; Sandelin, 2008) complemented with notions from the complementarity-based approach developed in organizational economics (Grandori & Furnari, 2008; Milgrom & Roberts, 1995). By enhancing our understanding on how SCS operate as a package, the application of our framework should allow researchers to develop better theory of how to design a range of controls to support organizational sustainability objectives, control sustainability activities, and drive sustainability performance.


In 2009, Newsweek published a report in which they ranked the 500 largest US companies and the 100 largest global companies based on its environmental performance measures ( This ranking is referred to as Newsweek’s Green Ranking. Included in this ranking is information about water and air pollution, solid waste disposal, toxic wastes, carbon emissions, and enforcement actions. The question we are addressing in this study is how well it measures pollution performance? The question is relevant to environmental accounting/reporting since it is part of a dilemma yet to be answered: Aggregated environmental indices/scores are easy for average information users to percept, while specific information may not be preserved when it is aggregated into the overall score(s).

Specifically, we examine whether Newsweek’s Green Ranking is correlated with pollution measures based on Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) in order to determine how valid or reliable Newsweek’s Green Ranking is – in other words, how much Newsweek’s Green Ranking can explain the pollution by the toxic releases. We find that there is no significant correlation between Newsweek’s Green Ranking and the TRI measures except for the firms in the utilities industry. Concluding that on one measure, which we consider a very important one, there is no justification for the overall Green Ranking Score presented by Newsweek. However, in Newsweek’s three-part score the element that is termed the Environmental Impact Score captures pollution performance measured based on TRI. The contrast between the overall ranking and performance ranking indicates that a composite index that incorporates hard performance and soft measures can dilute the information carried by performance data.


This chapter examines the association between corporate governance and environmental performance. The purpose of governance mechanisms is to build trust by ensuring that corporate responsibilities, including environmental responsibilities, are met. We obtain corporate governance data from the Investor Responsibility Research Center, Inc’s (IRRC’s) governance and director database and additional corporate governance and environmental performance data from Kinder, Lydenberg, and Domini’s (KLD’s) database. Our analyses document a significant positive association between corporate governance and environmental performance. Moreover, we find that corporate governance is positively related to environmental strengths, and negatively related to environmental concerns. Our findings contribute to and extend our understanding of the relationship between governance and performance and have important implications for policy makers, managers, investors, and others.


This study investigates the reaction to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) 2010 interpretative guidance on climate risk disclosures. Issued on February 8, 2010, the release represents one of the few examples of authoritative requirements for environmental disclosure in filers’ 10-K reports. As such, we attempt to determine the effect of the new requirement on companies’ disclosures as well as how the market reacted to the guidance announcement. Based on a sample of 155 large companies drawn randomly from the Fortune 500, we find first, that, as expected, climate change disclosures increased significantly following the release, but overall, the information provision remained quite limited. We further find that, presumably as intended, companies from industries facing greater climate change exposures exhibited significantly larger increases in disclosure (controlling for prior levels of information provision). Finally, we document that the market reaction to the release of the SEC guidance was significantly positive and driven by more positive returns from firms in climate risk industries. We interpret these unexpected findings as potentially being due to investors believing the new requirements were less demanding than might have been anticipated or that they believe firms facing climate risks were in a better position to respond than other companies.

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Advances in Environmental Accounting & Management
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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