Environmental Disclosure as Legitimation: Is It in the Public Interest?
In this chapter, I review evidence that explores the use of voluntary environmental disclosure as a tool of legitimacy. Legitimacy theorists argue that rather than being a vehicle for transparency and increased accountability, corporations may be using voluntary environmental reporting to enhance their image and reduce exposures to social and political pressure. The chapter presents evidence that both the level of environmental disclosure and changes in the extent of information provision appear to be related to differences in social and political exposure. I also explore in more detail the conflicting findings in the literature with respect to the relation between corporate environmental performance and environmental disclosure. Overall, I argue that voluntary corporate environmental disclosure as it currently exists does not appear to be in the public interest, and I offer my suggestions for bringing the practice more into alignment with what it would seem society desires.
KeywordsEnvironmental Performance Global Reporting Initiative Environmental Disclosure Corporate Environmental Performance Legitimacy Theory
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