Corporate environmental reporting in New Zealand - motivations by moral reasoning
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The objective of this study is to investigate the application of morality as a motivation for environmental reporting in a number of New Zealand companies that consider themselves both ethically and environmentally responsible. There have been many studies on the motivation of environmental reporting. Legitimacy theory and stakeholder theory are explanatory theories that have been dominant in the literature. However, influence of morality as a motivation for environmental reporting has not been studied fully. This dissertation looks at virtue ethics as a theory of morality and suggests that companies ought to report on their environmental impacts in an honest way. Virtue ethics looks at the human character of morality where one asks the question “how should I live my life”? The reflection of human character is present in company value statements and codes of conduct. These codes guide employees to be more ethical by emphasising virtues such as honesty, integrity and fairness. Since most companies hold themselves out to be ethical, those preparing corporate environmental reporting should be expected to report this information in an honest manner. This research used content analysis to prepare, organise and categorise public information disclosed in the annual reports and on company websites of twelve New Zealand companies. The analysis refers to the virtues in each company’s values, codes of ethics, statements of environmental responsibility and actual environmental reporting. The quality of the environmental reporting is assessed by referring to the qualitative characteristics of relevance and faithful representation outlined in the Conceptual Framework for Financial Reporting 2010. Three of the twelve companies studied have reported high quality environmental information suggesting that virtue could have been the moral motivation as to why they have done so. The other nine companies have not disclosed high quality environmental information. Because these nine companies have held themselves to be ethical in their company statements they therefore ought to be disclosing high quality environmental information.