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Article
Publication date: 27 September 2019

Ragini Rina Datt, Le Luo and Qingliang Tang

This study aims to examine whether good carbon performers disclose more carbon information overall than poor performers, and if yes, how firms select different types of…

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to examine whether good carbon performers disclose more carbon information overall than poor performers, and if yes, how firms select different types of carbon information to signal their genuine superior carbon performance.

Design/methodology/approach

The level of disclosure is measured based on content analysis of Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) reports. The study sample consists of 487 US companies that voluntarily participated in the CDP survey from 2011 to 2012. The authors use the t-test and multiple regression models for analyses.

Findings

The results consistently indicate that firms with better carbon performance disclose a greater amount of overall carbon information, supporting the signalling theory. In addition, in contrast to previous studies that merely consider the overall disclosure level, the authors also investigate disclosure of each major aspect of carbon activities. The results show that good carbon performers disclose more key carbon items, such as goods and services that avoid greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, external verification and carbon accounting, to signal their true type.

Research limitations/implications

This study has some limitations. The authors rely on CDP reports for analysis and focus on the largest companies in the USA. Caution should be exercised when generalising the results to other countries, smaller firms or voluntary carbon information disclosed in other communications channels.

Practical implications

Because carbon disclosure has already been moving from a voluntary to mandatory requirement in many jurisdictions, the format and content of CDP reports might be considered for a formal standalone GHG statement. Based on the results, the authors believe that there should be industry-specific disclosure guidelines, and more disclosure should be made at the project level.

Originality/value

In the context of climate change, this study provides support for the signalling theory by utilising the relationship between voluntary carbon disclosure and performance. The study also provides empirical evidence on how companies may use different types of carbon information to signal their underlying carbon performance.

Details

Accounting Research Journal, vol. 32 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1030-9616

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 1 July 2019

Ragini Rina Datt, Le Luo and Qingliang Tang

The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of legitimacy threats on corporate incentive to obtain external carbon assurance.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of legitimacy threats on corporate incentive to obtain external carbon assurance.

Design/methodology/approach

The sample consists of the largest US companies that disclosed carbon emissions to CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) over the period 2010-2013. Based on legitimacy theory, firms are more likely to obtain carbon assurance when they are under greater legitimacy threat. Carbon assurance is measured using CDP data. Three proxies are identified to measure legitimacy threat related to climate change: carbon emissions intensity, firm size and leverage.

Findings

This paper finds that firms with higher levels of emissions are more likely to obtain independent assurance, and large firms show the same tendency, as they are probably under pressure from their large group of stakeholders. In sum, the findings suggest that firms with higher carbon emissions face greater threats to their legitimacy, and the adoption of carbon assurance can mitigate risks to legitimacy with enhanced credibility of carbon disclosure in stakeholders’ decision-making.

Research limitations/implications

The study has some limitations. The authors have relied on CDP reports for analysis and focus on the largest companies in the US. Caution should be exercised when generalising the results to smaller firms, other countries or voluntary carbon assurance information disclosed in other communications channels.

Practical implications

This study provides extra insights into and an improved understanding of determinants and motivation of carbon assurance, which should be useful for policymakers to develop policies and initiatives for carbon assurance. The collective results should be useful for practicing accountants and accounting firms.

Originality/value

The paper investigates how legitimacy threats affect firms’ choice of external carbon assurance in the context of US, which has not been documented previously. It contributes to the understanding of legitimacy theory in the context of voluntary carbon assurance.

Details

Accounting Research Journal, vol. 32 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1030-9616

Keywords

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