Journal of Business Ethics 125 (4):1-30 (2014)

Prior research suggests that voluntary environmental governance mechanisms operate to enhance a firm’s environmental legitimacy as opposed to being a driver of proactive environmental performance activities. To understand how these mechanisms contribute to the firm’s environmental legitimacy, we investigate whether environmental corporate governance characteristics are associated with voluntary environmental disclosure. We examine an increasingly important attribute of a firm’s disclosure setting, namely the disclosure of greenhouse gas (GHG) information. GHG information represents proprietary non-financial information about the firm’s exposure to environmental concerns and is related to the firm’s operations and future profitability. Thus, we expect governance participants would view such information as a potentially important strategic device for managing stakeholders’ demands for information concerning environmental risks. We find that the presence of an environmental committee and a Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) is positively associated with the likelihood of GHG disclosure and that CSOs are associated with disclosure transparency. Further analysis reveals that the likelihood of disclosure is associated with committee size, number of committee meetings, expertise of committee members and CSO, and overlap between the environmental committee and audit committee. Only expertise of the environmental committee members and the CSO are associated with GHG disclosure transparency, while larger committees tend to be associated with lower transparency. Our results are particularly important to those with interests in evaluating the potential role that corporate governance mechanisms play in responding to stakeholder concerns about environmental risks. Directors and officers who are considering appointment to similar governance positions, may wish to consider what attributes would make such governance positions more influential
Keywords Corporate governance  Greenhouse gas disclosures  Corporate Sustainability Officer  Environmental committees
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Reprint years 2014
DOI 10.1007/s10551-013-1886-9
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