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Article
Publication date: 9 March 2020

Delphine Gibassier, Giovanna Michelon and Mélodie Cartel

The purpose of this paper is to review the contributions of the special issue papers while presenting four broad research avenues.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to review the contributions of the special issue papers while presenting four broad research avenues.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper is based on a review of current literature on climate change and carbon accounting.

Findings

The authors propose four broad avenues for research: climate change as a systemic and social issue, the multi-layered transition apparatus for climate change, climate vulnerability and the future of carbon accounting.

Practical implications

The authors connect this study with the requested institutional changes for climate breakdown, making the paper relevant for practice and policy. The authors notably point to education and professions as institutions that will request bold and urgent makeovers.

Social implications

The authors urge academics to reconsider climate change as a social issue, requiring to use new theoretical lenses such as emotions, eco-feminism, material politics and “dispositifs” to tackle this grand challenge.

Originality/value

This paper switches the authors’ viewpoint on carbon accounting to look at it from a more systemic and social lens.

Details

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, vol. 11 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2040-8021

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Article
Publication date: 20 February 2017

Thomas Schneider, Giovanna Michelon and Michael Maier

The purpose of this paper is to encourage accounting regulators to address diversity in practice in the reporting of environmental liabilities. When Canada changed to…

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1556

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to encourage accounting regulators to address diversity in practice in the reporting of environmental liabilities. When Canada changed to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) in 2011, Canadian regulators asked the IFRS Interpretations Committee to interpret whether the discount rate to value environmental liabilities should be a risk-free discount rate. Old Canadian GAAP, and current US GAAP, allow for a higher discount rate, resulting in commensurately lower liabilities. International regulators refused to address this issue expecting no diversity in practice in Canada.

Design/methodology/approach

The focus is on a sample of Canadian oil and gas and mining firms. These domestic industries play a major role internationally and have significant environmental liabilities. The method is empirical archival, tracking firm characteristics and discount rate choice on transition to IFRS.

Findings

There is significant diversity in practice. About one-third of the sample firms choose a higher discount rate, avoiding a major increase in environmental liabilities on transition to IFRS. The evidence suggests that these firms have relatively larger environmental liabilities and that the discount rate decision is a strategic choice.

Research limitations/implications

The sample is based on one country and may only be reflecting local anomalies that have no broader implications.

Practical implications

Diversity in practice in accounting for environmental liabilities is not acceptable. Accounting regulators should act to create consistent and comparable reporting practice.

Social implications

Firms and managers facing larger environmental liabilities can choose to minimize environmental liabilities under IFRS, while it is the general public and society at large that bear the ultimate risk.

Originality/value

The paper pushes forward the debate on whether recognized environmental liabilities should reflect the interests of equity investors, or if other investors and stakeholders should be taken into account.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 30 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 11 May 2015

Giovanna Michelon, Saverio Bozzolan and Sergio Beretta

The purpose of this paper is to investigate two research questions. Is internal control system (ICS) disclosure, as a monitoring mechanism, associated with the…

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3917

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate two research questions. Is internal control system (ICS) disclosure, as a monitoring mechanism, associated with the characteristics of the board of directors, particularly the audit committee as the main board committee devoted to the effectiveness of ICS? Does the regulatory environment, particularly the regulation on ICS disclosure as an external governance/monitoring mechanism play a role in shaping the relationship between board monitoring and ICS disclosure and, if so, how?

Design/methodology/approach

The authors study the ICS disclosure of 149 companies listed in four European financial markets (London, Paris, Frankfurt and Milan), each with its own regulations about ICS disclosure, during a six-year period (2003-2008).

Findings

The findings support an inverse association between the extent of ICS disclosure and the proxies for board monitoring. The authors also find a statistically significant negative relationship between board monitoring and substantial ICS disclosure but no relationship between board monitoring and formal ICS disclosure. The evidence also shows that the regulatory environment moderates the relationship between board monitoring and ICS disclosure by introducing trade-offs among monitoring mechanisms.

Research limitations/implications

An important caveat of the research is that it does not explore if and how investors use ICS disclosure to evaluate the firm.

Practical implications

The authors propose a framework for the analysis of ICS disclosure that overcomes limitations of previous literature that has neglected the importance of the content beyond the extent of ICS disclosure. Through this framework researchers, practitioners and standard setters are able to separate merely descriptive, formal un-useful disclosure (boilerplate information) on the composing elements of the ICS from substantial disclosure regarding the functioning of the ICS (monitoring function).

Originality/value

The authors also provide evidence that the relationship between board monitoring and ICS disclosure varies with the content of the information communicated, thus offering guidance for future research not to focus on measuring the extent or quantity of disclosure but on the variety and complexity of the information communicated.

Details

Journal of Applied Accounting Research, vol. 16 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0967-5426

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Article
Publication date: 11 May 2012

Charles H. Cho, Giovanna Michelon and Dennis M. Patten

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the use of graphs in corporate sustainability reports and attempt to determine, first, whether the use of graphs appears to be…

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1034

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the use of graphs in corporate sustainability reports and attempt to determine, first, whether the use of graphs appears to be associated with attempts at impression management, and second, whether differences across three levels of reporting regulatory structure are associated with differences in the level of impression management.

Design/methodology/approach

Based on a sample of 120 sustainability reports issued by firms from six different countries, the authors empirically test for differences in presentation of favourable, as opposed to unfavourable, items (enhancement) and for differences in the direction of materially distorted graphs (obfuscation).

Findings

For the overall sample, substantial evidence was found of both enhancement and obfuscation in the graph displays. Also, more limited evidence was found that impression management differs across companies facing different regulatory structures.

Research limitations/implications

The authors investigate graph use for only one year's reports and for a sample of large companies from only six different countries. Further, the enhancement findings are not evidence that the companies are necessarily providing misleading information. However, the results show that the way information is being provided in corporate sustainability reports appears to be manipulated by the firms to enhance a positive image and to obfuscate negative trends. The reports may thus be less about increasing corporate accountability across the social and environmental domains than about managing impressions. Hence, it may be beneficial for advocate organizations, such as the Global Reporting Initiative, to provide additional guidance on “how” information gets portrayed in sustainability reports.

Originality/value

The paper expands prior research into corporate manipulation of graphs to the domain of sustainability reporting and adds further evidence that the reporting needs to be carefully assessed.

Details

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, vol. 3 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2040-8021

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Article
Publication date: 9 September 2013

Antonella Cugini, Giovanna Michelon and Silvia Pilonato

– The purpose of this paper is to present and discuss an accounting innovation in the cost measurement system of rail transport companies.

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2775

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present and discuss an accounting innovation in the cost measurement system of rail transport companies.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors identify the distinctive features that cost accounting systems should have in order to capture the particular structure of the production process of rail transport companies and develop an innovative accounting practice that addresses the specific features of railway services, particularly the high fixed costs associated with the infrastructure. This accounting innovation is applied to Trentino Trasporti, a medium-sized, privately owned passenger railway company operating in the Trentino Alto Adige region of Italy.

Findings

Evidence suggests that the new accounting practice facilitates the operational connection between the company's resources and their consumption during the provision of transport services.

Practical implications

This connection enables companies to identify new opportunities for improvement and cost optimisation by finding the real origins of cost consumption in the provision of rail transport services.

Originality/value

The case analysed also shows the necessity of integrating activity-based costing (ABC) with an accounting innovation that can represent the resources consumed by the various elements of the infrastructure that support the provision of services. This innovation has important managerial outcomes for all service companies that operate with an infrastructure network, including transport, service, and utility companies, and useful implications for the accounting profession that deals with cost systems in networked-based companies.

Details

Journal of Applied Accounting Research, vol. 14 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0967-5426

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Article
Publication date: 7 March 2016

Giovanna Michelon, Silvia Pilonato, Federica Ricceri and Robin W Roberts

The purpose of this paper is threefold. First, it examines nuances that specific camouflaging perspectives provide to enhance traditional and widely adopted theories in…

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1610

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is threefold. First, it examines nuances that specific camouflaging perspectives provide to enhance traditional and widely adopted theories in social and environmental accounting. Second, within research on camouflaging, the paper stimulates multidisciplinarity and cross-fertilization by presenting recent developments in organizational theory that hold promise for enhancing our understanding of camouflaging. Finally, it discusses how the research contributions published in this special issue help advance the notion of corporate camouflaging.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper makes use of an extensive literature review and discusses research implications related with the choice of theoretical framework.

Findings

The idea of camouflaging may provide narrower and more refined perspective(s) that can help researchers delve deeper into their topic of interest and thereby support potentially substantive contributions to the field.

Originality/value

The paper offers suggestions for future social and environmental accounting research that adopts the concepts of organized hypocrisy, organizational façades and functional stupidity into the study of organizations.

Details

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, vol. 7 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2040-8021

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Article
Publication date: 19 January 2015

Charles H. Cho, Giovanna Michelon, Dennis M. Patten and Robin W. Roberts

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) disclosure is receiving increased attention from the mainstream accounting research community. In general, this recently published…

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9401

Abstract

Purpose

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) disclosure is receiving increased attention from the mainstream accounting research community. In general, this recently published research has failed to engage significantly with prior CSR-themed studies. The purpose of this paper is threefold. First, it examines whether more recent CSR reporting differs from that of the 1970s. Second, it investigates whether one of the major findings of prior CSR research – that disclosure appears to be largely a function of exposure to legitimacy factors – continues to hold in more recent reporting. Third, it examines whether, as argued within the more recent CSR-themed studies, disclosure is valued by market participants.

Design/methodology/approach

Using Fortune 500 data from the late 1970s (from Ernst & Ernst, 1978) and a more recent sample (2010), the authors identify differences in CSR disclosure by computing adequate measures in terms of disclosure breadth and comparing them for any potential changes in the influence of legitimacy factors between 1977 and 2010. In the second stage of the analysis, the authors use a standard valuation model to compare the association between CSR and firm value between the two time periods.

Findings

The authors first find that the breadth of CSR disclosure increased significantly, with respect to both environmental and social information provision. Second, the authors find that the relationship among legitimacy factors and CSR disclosure does not differ across the two time periods. However, the analysis focusing on environmental disclosure provides evidence that industry membership is less powerfully related to differences in reporting, but only for the weighted disclosure score. Finally, the results indicate that CSR disclosure, in apparent contrast to the arguments of the more recent mainstream investigations, is not positively valued by investors.

Research limitations/implications

The authors explore changes in CSR disclosure only for industrial firms and as such the authors cannot generalize findings to companies in other industries. Similarly, the authors focus only on companies in the USA while different relationships may hold in other countries. Further, the disclosure metrics are limited by the availability of firm-specific information provided by Ernst & Ernst. Limitations aside, however, the findings appear to suggest that the failure of the new wave of CSR research in the mainstream accounting community to acknowledge and consider prior research into social and environmental accounting is potentially troublesome. Specifically, recent CSR disclosure research published in mainstream journals often lends credence to voluntary disclosure arguments that ignore previous contradictory findings and well-established alternative explanations for observed empirical relationships.

Practical implications

This paper provides supporting evidence that the unquestioned acceptance by the new wave of CSR researchers that the disclosure is about informing investors as opposed to being a tool of legitimation and image enhancement makes it less likely that such disclosure will ever move meaningfully toward transparent accountability.

Originality/value

The study suggests that CSR disclosure, while used more extensively today than three decades ago, may still largely be driven by concerns with corporate legitimacy, and still fails to provide information that is relevant for assessing firm value. As such, the failure of the mainstream accounting community to acknowledge this possibility can only hinder the ultimate development of better accountability for all of the impacts of business.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 28 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 22 March 2013

Giacomo Boesso, Kamalesh Kumar and Giovanna Michelon

The purpose of this study is to investigate whether the descriptive, instrumental, and strategic approaches to corporate social responsibility (CSR) are related to…

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5195

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to investigate whether the descriptive, instrumental, and strategic approaches to corporate social responsibility (CSR) are related to corporate performance (CP) and to determine the nature of this relationship, if any.

Design/methodology/approach

Using data collected by KLD Research Analytics and Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the study examines the association between companies' choice of approaches to the CSR and CSR‐CP relationship.

Findings

Results of this study indicate that each of the three approaches to CSR – descriptive, instrumental, and strategic – are associated with CP, but in different ways. While the instrumental approach to CSR has a positive association with short‐term measures of CP, the strategic approach is associated with short‐term and medium‐term measures of CP, and the descriptive approach has no definite association with CP at all.

Originality/value

This study integrates the prevailing justifications for CSR with the taxonomy of approaches to CSR – instrumental, descriptive and strategic – suggested in the literature. It has been argued that these frameworks influence managers' conception of what constitutes effective stakeholder management and make a difference in how decision makers in an organization think and act in crafting the company's social initiatives and in deciding what the company aims to achieve through these initiatives. By examining the association between companies' approaches to CSR and stakeholder management of the CSR‐CP relationship, the study offers another perspective of the ongoing debate in the social accounting literature about the accountability relationships between business and society.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 26 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 6 May 2014

Charles H. Cho, Giovanna Michelon, Dennis M. Patten and Robin W. Roberts

The authors aims to examine, first, what factors appear to lead those US companies that do obtain assurance on their CSR reports to do so, and second, whether this…

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3336

Abstract

Purpose

The authors aims to examine, first, what factors appear to lead those US companies that do obtain assurance on their CSR reports to do so, and second, whether this assurance appears to be valued by market participants.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors use logistic regression analysis to determine what factors explain the choice to seek assurance. For the second stage of the analysis, the authors rely on Aboody et al.'s market valuation model to examine the association between CSR report assurance and firm value.

Findings

The authors find that industry membership and disclosure extensiveness both appear to influence the choice to attain third-party assurance on CSR reports in the USA. However, the results also indicate that the assurance is not associated with higher market value for report-issuing companies.

Research limitations/implications

The authors examine only large firms and limit the investigation to a single year. Further, the authors do not examine market valuation effects where a broader stakeholder orientation might influence these relations.

Practical implications

The results suggest that improving the incidence of CSR report attestation in the USA may require efforts from the assurance community to better identify the potential benefits of the practice.

Originality/value

This is the first study to focus on CSR report assurance in a setting where country-level influences appear to limit adoption of the practice. As such, the findings are potentially important for understanding both the low incidence of assurance and what might be necessary to increase its use.

Details

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, vol. 5 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2040-8021

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Article
Publication date: 16 August 2019

Panayis Pitrakkos and Warren Maroun

This paper aims to examine the differences in quality and quantity of disclosures dealing with greenhouse gas emissions among companies with a relatively large or small…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to examine the differences in quality and quantity of disclosures dealing with greenhouse gas emissions among companies with a relatively large or small carbon footprint. It also considers whether disclosures are being included in the primary report to stakeholders (an integrated report) or in a secondary source (a sustainability report).

Design/methodology/approach

A comprehensive carbon disclosure checklist was constructed based on professional and academic literature to identify and categorise carbon disclosures. Quality is gauged according to a multi-dimensional assessment derived from prior research based on density of reporting, disclosure attributes, management orientation, integration of information, ease of analysis, reporting on strategy, use of independent assurance and repetition. A content analysis is used to gauge the quantity and quality of carbon disclosures of 50 companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Differences in the quantity and quality scores of high- and low-carbon companies are tested using a Mann–Whitney U test.

Findings

Carbon disclosures are used as part of a legitimacy management exercise. This involves not just the use of additional environmental disclosure to placate stakeholders as environmental impact grows. The quality of reporting and location of disclosures are, perhaps, more important for understanding how companies are responding to stakeholder expectations for reporting on carbon emissions and climate change.

Practical implications

Despite mounting scientific evidence on the risks posed by climate changes, companies remain reluctant to commit to high-quality reporting on specific steps being taken to reduce carbon emissions. Even when disclosures are being targeted at key stakeholders, the possibility of impression management remains. It may, therefore, be necessary to have carbon reporting regulated and independently assured. More guidance on how companies should be managing and reporting on carbon emissions and climate change may also be required.

Social implications

Despite mounting scientific evidence on the risks posed by climate changes, companies remain reluctant to commit to high-quality reporting on specific steps being taken to reduce carbon emissions. Even when disclosures are being targeted at key stakeholders, the possibility of impression management remains. It may, therefore, be necessary to have carbon reporting regulated and independently assured. More guidance on how companies should be managing and reporting on carbon emissions and climate change may also be required.

Originality/value

The study merges the traditional approach of focusing on the quantity of disclosures to illustrate the application of legitimacy theory in a sustainability/integrated reporting setting with less-seldom-studied quality and location of reporting. This result provides a more nuanced perspective of how carbon disclosures are being used to manage stakeholders’ reporting expectations.

Details

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, vol. 11 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2040-8021

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