آیا اعمال رساتر از کلمات صحبت می کنند؟ یک تحقیق تجربی از اعتبار زیست محیطی شرکت
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|71||2012||12 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Accounting, Organizations and Society, Volume 37, Issue 1, January 2012, Pages 14–25
In this study, we investigate the extent to which firms’ environmental performance is reflected in perceptions of their environmental reputation and whether environmental disclosure serves to mediate the negative aspects of poorer environmental performance associated with those assessments. We also examine whether differences in environmental performance and environmental disclosure appear to be associated with membership selection to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), a factor we also believe may be associated with perceptions of environmental reputation. Based on a cross-sectional sample of 92 US firms from environmentally sensitive industries, we find that environmental performance measured using Trucost environmental performance scores is negatively related to both reputation scores and membership in the DJSI. We argue this is due to the more extensive disclosure levels of firms that are worse performers and the finding of a significant positive relation between environmental disclosure and both the environmental reputation measures and DJSI membership. Finally, we show that the DJSI designation positively influences perceptions of corporate reputation. Overall, our results suggest that voluntary environmental disclosure appears to mediate the effect of poor environmental performance on environmental reputation. Perhaps more troubling, our results also suggest that membership in the DJSI appears to be driven more by what firms say than what they do. Thus, like voluntary disclosure, the DJSI may actually be hindering improved future corporate environmental performance.
This investigation is concerned with the extent to which a company’s environmental performance is reflected in perceptions of its environmental reputation. Certainly, major environmental catastrophes such as the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico seriously affect corporate reputations. What is less clear is whether general levels of environmental performance influence perceptions of corporate environmental reputation and whether voluntary environmental disclosure serves to mediate that effect. Our study integrates two prior streams of environmental disclosure research. First, we build on recent studies claiming a negative relation between environmental performance and environmental disclosure. Cho and Patten (2007), for example, argue that because companies with worse environmental performance face greater exposure to social and political pressures, they have an incentive to use disclosure to address these exposures (see also Hughes et al., 2001 and Patten, 2002). We extend this research by examining not only whether environmental performance is associated with levels of environmental disclosure, but also whether differences in environmental performance appear to influence membership in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) (and thus, indirectly, perceptions of environmental reputation). Second, we add to the limited number of studies examining the relation between social and/or environmental disclosure and perceptions of corporate reputation. Both Toms (2002), using UK company annual report disclosures, and Brown, Guidry, and Patten (2010), investigating the impact of first-time issuances of sustainability-type reports in the US, report positive associations between the extent of disclosure and measures of corporate reputation. Neither of these prior studies, however, considers the potential concurrent effect of actual environmental performance, and neither considers the potential indirect relation disclosure (and/or performance) may have through its influence on inclusion in the DJSI. Based on a sample of 92 US companies from environmentally sensitive industries and using environmental reputation scores reported in the first-ever Newsweek magazine ranking of the “greenest” companies in America (McGinn, 2009, p. 35), we explore the relations between environmental performance, environmental disclosure, membership in the DJSI, and perceptions of corporate environmental reputation. Using path analysis, we find that environmental performance scores also reported in the Newsweek rankings are negatively (and significantly) related to both reputation and membership in the DJSI. We contend that these unexpected results are a function of the relation between environmental performance and environmental disclosure. Our analysis also finds that the extent of voluntary environmental disclosure included in annual financial reports and, where issued, stand-alone corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports is negatively related to environmental performance (worse performers have more extensive disclosures). Further, our results indicate environmental disclosure is positively (and significantly) associated with both environmental reputation scores and membership in the DJSI. Our results are thus consistent with the argument that companies use voluntary environmental disclosure to offset the potential reputational effects of poor environmental performance. Perhaps most troubling, our results show that while inclusion in the DJSI is associated with positive reputational effects, membership in the Index appears to be related more to what companies say (their environmental disclosure) than what they do (their environmental performance). As such, the DJSI may be reducing the incentives for companies included as members to improve their future environmental performance.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
The primary intent of this investigation was to identify whether companies’ environmental performance is reflected in perceptions of their environmental reputation and whether environmental disclosure serves to mediate the influence of poorer environmental performance on environmental reputation. We also examine whether differences in environmental performance and environmental disclosure appear to be associated with membership selection to the DJSI, given our belief that such designation is likely to positively influence external perceptions of corporate environmental reputation. Based on a sample of 92 US firms from industries facing higher levels of environmental exposure and using reputation scores as identified in Newsweek magazine’s rankings of the greenest corporations in America, we find that environmental performance as captured by Trucost environmental performance scores is actually negatively related to both reputation scores and membership in the DJSI. We argue this negative relation is due to the voluntary disclosure practices of the sample firms. Consistent with several prior studies, we find that environmental performance is also negatively related to the level of environmental disclosure (worse performing companies make more extensive disclosures). We also document a significant positive relation between disclosure and both the environmental reputation measures and membership in the DJSI. Thus, the higher levels of environmental disclosure appear to mediate the potential negative effects of poorer performance on environmental reputation. Finally, as expected, we show that DJSI designation positively influences perceptions of corporate reputation. While results are fairly robust to alternative sensitivity tests, supplemental analysis indicates that the direct relationships between disclosure and environmental reputation and environmental performance and reputation may be sensitive to firm size. We also find that the effect of environmental performance on DJSI inclusion and environmental reputation is also sensitive to industry classification, whereas the overall pattern of mediating relationships remains. Nevertheless, the direct and indirect influences of disclosure on environmental reputation appear strong. While these results suggest a certain degree of naivety on part of users of environmental disclosure, they are consistent with findings from other recent investigations of the use of environmental disclosure (see, e.g., Cho et al., 2009, Jacobs et al., 2010 and Milne and Patten, 2002). An important implication of our findings is that voluntary environmental disclosure appears to be an effective tool for reputation risk management. However, while business managers may see this as good news, proponents of improved corporate environmental performance might view it in a more negative light. As noted by Hopwood (2009), it appears that many, particularly larger, companies tend to channel their environmental disclosures more toward discussion of strategies and policies than toward providing meaningful performance information. To the extent that this disclosure lessens the potential negative effects of performance in the social and political arenas, the disclosure may actually reduce the incentives companies have for bettering their actual environmental performance in the future. This would seem to be contrary to the desires of society. Perhaps even more troubling, our results appear to indicate that the DJSI, one of the most visible proclaimed indicators of excellence in corporate sustainability, is far more influenced by what companies say (their environmental disclosure) than by what they do (their environmental performance). Thus, like voluntary disclosure, the DJSI may actually be hindering improved future corporate environmental performance. Investigating the relation between changes in either environmental reputation or DJSI membership and subsequent environmental performance would be a potentially interesting extension of our study. Like all investigations, ours is subject to limitations. As an archival study, we can only provide evidence on associations, not causality (see, e.g., Alewine, 2010). Exploring how individuals perceive disclosure (and potentially, membership in indexes such as the DJSI) in relation to reputation using an experimental or qualitative design could add evidence along this dimension. Also, we focus only on relative large US companies, and as such, the extent to which the relations we show hold in other settings cannot be generalized. Further, both environmental performance and environmental reputation are constructs that must be measured using proxies. While we believe the measures we use are valid proxies for those constructs, we acknowledge that, like all proxies, they may not perfectly reflect the true underlying attributes they attempt to capture. In addition, our environmental disclosure scale, although used in prior studies, is much more a measure of the quantity as opposed to the quality of environmental disclosure. It is also based only on hard copy, not web-based, disclosures. Finally, we do not explore whether, or how, the relations between environmental performance, environmental disclosure, membership in the DJSI and perceptions of corporate environmental reputation may change over time. Extensions of our work along any of these lines, therefore, would appear to be valuable.