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|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|20829||2013||11 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||10722 کلمه|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Energy Policy, Volume 63, December 2013, Pages 1075–1085
In the public sphere and the literature on climate strategies, the measurability of corporate GHG emissions tends to be taken for granted, and few empirical studies have examined the reliability of such data. The present case study, which was conducted among 10 Canadian companies considered as large final emitters and three auditing firms, focuses on the factors which could affect the perceived credibility of GHG inventories and the strategic implications of these. The qualitative, inductive study allows identifying three main factors which affect trust in business inventories: technical issues and complexity of GHG measurements, lack of transparency on the part of the companies and unreliability of verification mechanisms. The study also makes it possible to evaluate the implications of uncertainties concerning GHG inventories which are of strategic importance for companies and policy makers. While the reliability of GHG measurement is taken for granted at the political level, uncertainties in this area can in fact have a huge impact on the establishment of the cap and trade system. The study also contributes to the literature on carbon accounting by shedding light on underexplored ethical issues, including the lack of independence of auditors and its implications.
Ever more numerous managers face the challenge of taking into consideration the problem of climate change in their business strategies. In a study by McKinsey (2008), 60% of the 2192 managers interviewed stated that climate change constitutes an important dimension which should be included into the overall strategy of the company. Accounting of corporate GHG emissions constitutes a crucial preliminary step in meeting this new challenge (Hoffman, 2006 and Schultz and Williamson, 2005). However, in the literature on climate strategies, the reliability of information on GHG emissions tends to be taken for granted. In fact, most empirical studies on companies' actions aimed at reducing GHG assume that performance in this area can be measured in a relatively accurate manner (e.g. Boiral et al., 2012, Cowan and Deegan, 2011, Prado-Lorenzo and Garcia-Sanchez, 2010 and Prado-Lorenzo et al., 2009). Indeed, the validity of this assumption has not hitherto been questioned. The present article aims to analyze the manner in which uncertainties in the measurement and verification of GHG emissions are interpreted in Canadian industrial companies and the implications that these uncertainties have for climate strategies. The results of the analysis may have major managerial, institutional and political implications. Firstly, the inventory data allow to establish the main emission sources and to identify initiatives to prioritize. The development of climate change performance indicators allows a company to evaluate the effectiveness of the mitigating measures and to compare its own performance with that of companies operating in different sectors. The indicators also play an important role in assessing the feasibility of projects, internalizing the potential carbon costs and allocating internal resources (Burritt et al., 2011, Matthews et al., 2008 and Sullivan and Gouldson, 2012). In this light, the reliability of the data contained in the inventory is essential to ensure an adequate assessment of risks and opportunities by companies. Secondly, carbon accounting allows to respond to the increasing pressure by investors, politicians and consumers in the area of climate-change related issues (Stechemesser and Guenther, 2012). The pressure has led in particular to companies being strongly encouraged to disclose their GHG performance to legitimize their industrial activities (Prado-Lorenzo and Garcia-Sanchez, 2010, Cowan and Deegan, 2011 and Hrasky, 2012). This practice has become increasingly popular during the last decade. For example, the participation rate of FT500 companies in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), an initiative of voluntary disclosure of environmental information, increased from 46% in 2003 to 77% in 2007 (Pinkse and Kolk, 2009). Information disclosed by companies can influence investment decisions, and the manner in which companies respond to climate risks can have serious financial consequences, and potentially affect the performance of the investment portfolio (Bowen and Wittneben, 2011 and Sullivan and Gouldson, 2012). Thirdly, GHG accounting has a considerable political dimension, as companies' data is essential for the development and evaluation of regulations and international climate agreements (Hoffmann and Busch, 2008 and Schaltegger and Csutora, 2012). For example, in Canada in 2010, 38% of total GHG emissions were generated by 537 industrial facilities considered as large final emitters – emissions of more than 50,000 tones of CO2 equivalent per year (Environment Canada, 2012a). It is therefore impossible for the policy and decision makers to develop and adopt new climate policies without taking into consideration the business inventories, particularly those of companies with high energy consumption. The carbon performance indicators of companies are also a key source of information for assessing the efficiency and feasibility of climate policy (Hoffmann and Busch, 2008). A political decision like that of creating a cap and trade system of emission allowances has serious consequences for some companies, as it generates economic cost for activities which were traditionally free of charge (Bebbington and Larrinaga-González, 2008 and MacKenzie, 2009). According to the World Bank data, USD 142 billion were traded on carbon markets in 2010, which represents a significant increase in comparison with USD 32 billion in 2006 (Carbon Finance, 2011). This tendency is likely to continue, with new emissions trading markets emerging, such as the “Western Climate Initiative” which has come into effect in 2013 in California and Quebec. Implementing trading mechanisms requires adopting strong procedures and requirements for the accounting and verification of carbon emissions to ensure the validity of corporate GHG inventories (Rypdal and Winiwarter, 2001). Despite the managerial, institutional and political significance of the reliability of corporate GHG inventories, little research has been conducted on the process of data collecting, reporting and verification (Hopwood, 2009, Kolk et al., 2008, Milne and Grubnic, 2011 and Schaltegger and Csutora, 2012). The credibility and reliability of the data is difficult to assess due to the lack of information on corporate practices. The majority of studies which address the uncertainties in accounting GHG emissions were carried out at the level of national inventories and their estimates vary considerably (e.g. Rypdal and Winiwarter, 2001, Gupta et al., 2003 and Monni et al., 2004). This is a cause for concern given the potential financial and political consequences of errors in the measurement. The present study focuses on the authority of numbers, i. e. the credibility which the measurement system inspires as a knowledge and communication tool (Espeland and Stevens, 2008). To be credible, the data must be valid and representative of the phenomenon under investigation (Desrosières, 1998 and Desrosières, 2001) and allow to solve problems (Porter, 1995). In the specific case of GHG inventories, the representativeness of inventories is often assumed to be self-evident. The present study questions this assumption and analyzes the manner in which uncertainties in the measurement and verification of GHG emissions are interpreted in industrial companies and the implications that those have for climate strategies. Its contribution to the literature on carbon accounting consists in identifying factors which may affect the credibility of business inventories. No in-depth, specific studies have so far been conducted on the subject of confidence in inventories. The present paper highlights in particular the lack of companies' transparency and the shortcomings of skills and impartiality among GHG inventories auditors. These emergent aspects have important implications for the development of climate strategies for business managers and policy makers. The rest of the paper is organized as follows: In the first part, the literature review is presented. The following section describes the methodological aspects and the main results of the study. The final part is devoted to the discussion of the results, their implications and avenues for future research.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
The present study offers three main contributions to the literature on the measurement and verification of GHG inventories. First, the study shows that the measurability of GHG emissions should not be taken for granted by companies, politicians and investors, as uncertainties in the measurements tend to be underestimated. Such a lack of precision in the data could impact the development of business climate strategies by affecting the assessment of opportunities and risks. Estimation problems could also encourage some companies to underestimate the inventories used within the system of allocation of emission allowances. These estimation problems contribute to the critical literature on environmental accounting. Although this literature has questioned the reliability of the data disclosed by companies (e.g. Gray, 2010, Moneva et al., 2006 and Unerman et al., 2007), the optimistic rhetoric on this issue (Boiral, 2013, Cho et al., 2010 and Laufer, 2003) and the managerial capture of information (Owen et al., 2000), previous studies have essentially focused on the content analysis of sustainability reports, the analysis of secondary data and theoretical approaches. Moreover, most of this critical literature remains rather broad in focus, unspecific and does not takes into account the perceptions of managers themselves with regard to data quality. By focusing on the perceptions of the measurability of corporate GHG emissions by managers from large emitter companies, this study sheds new light on the lack of transparency and unreliability of environmental accounting. Surprisingly, although the appearance of rigor, trustfulness and transparency of information is essential to strengthen the legitimacy of organizations (Boiral, 2013, Cho et al., 2010, Deegan, 2002, O'Dwyer, 2005 and Unerman et al., 2007), most managers interviewed adopted a rather skeptical attitude which seems quite in line with the critical literature on the lack of reliability of environmental accounting. This result shows that all managers do not necessarily believe or endorse the optimistic rhetoric surrounding environmental disclosure and associated with managerial discourse (Laufer, 2003 and Cho et al., 2010). Generally speaking, the results of the study also lead one to question or even doubt the validity of many quantitative studies that use secondary data on corporate GHG emissions (e.g. Prado-Lorenzo and Garcia-Sanchez, 2010 and Prado-Lorenzo et al., 2009). Secondly, the study is one of the few works which focus on the credibility of and the uncertainties in the inventories of companies operating under a standardized regulatory framework. Most of previous work in the field based on analysis of secondary data collected through voluntary actions (e.g. Hrasky, 2012, Kolk et al., 2008 and Roeser and Jackson, 2002). The present, qualitative study also responds to the postulate formulated by Hrasky (2012) that in order to better understand the behavior of companies, in-depth interviews with the preparers of the reports should be conducted. The interviews conducted allowed to identify certain ethical issues which may affect the credibility of the information disclosed: inaccurate or selective disclosure of information to obtain subsidies or improve corporate image, hiding of uncertainties in inventories, conflict of interests with auditors. As a result of the importance of industrial activities in national inventories, the opacity in the measurement and companies' practice of withholding information affect climate commitments and initiatives at the state level, notably the evaluation of the effectiveness of climate policies. Publicizing the uncertainties in the public sphere could affect the credibility and the evaluation of systems such as carbon markets. The value of carbon credits is compromised by the fact that companies can obtain the audit reports they desire and provide uncertain data. Thirdly, the study demonstrates the limits of external audits on the GHG performance. Unlike in the results of the study by Green and Li (2012), auditors interviewed in the present study showed limited confidence in the validated reports. The auditors' lack of skills and their business relationship with companies affect the reliability of the verification. The present study is the first one to focus on the difficulties encountered by ISO 14065 certified organizations in validating or verifying GHG inventories. Issues of auditor skills and impartiality have already been discussed in the literature on financial audits (Gendron and Spira, 2009, Kornberger et al., 2011 and Moore et al., 2006) and the assurance of sustainability reports (Cho et al., 2010 and Boiral and Gendron, 2011). The present study contributes to this literature by showing that the discrepancies observed between the appearance of rigor of audits and their actual practice also apply to the GHG inventories verification. Just as observed in the field of financial or environmental audits (Boiral and Gendron, 2011, Gendron and Spira, 2009, Kornberger et al., 2011 and Moore et al., 2006), the results of the study demonstrate that verification bodies are unable to ensure the accuracy and reliability of information.