Journal of Business Ethics 147 (2):367-383 (2018)

The objective of this study was to analyze the quality of climate information disclosed by companies and the impression management strategies they have developed to justify or conceal negative aspects of their performance. The study is based on a qualitative content analysis of the sustainability reports of 21 energy-sector companies that use the Global Reporting Initiative with A or A+ application levels over a period of 5 years. It contributes to the literature on climate disclosure by demonstrating the ineffectiveness of the external assurance process in ensuring the quality and representativeness of the data. Significant non-compliance with GRI standards was identified in 86 of the 93 reports audited by a third party. In addition, six of the 21 companies surveyed were found to disclose increasingly opaque information over time, concealing information on the measurement and methodology used. Through this study, four impression management strategies were identified. These are employed either to justify certain information or to conceal it. In exposing the high incidence of non-compliance in GRI reporting and the use of impression management strategies by companies, this study shows that it will be difficult or impossible for stakeholders to reasonably assess, monitor and compare companies’ climate performance on the basis of these reports.
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DOI 10.1007/s10551-015-2979-4
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Social Accountability and Corporate Greenwashing.William S. Laufer - 2003 - Journal of Business Ethics 43 (3):253 - 261.

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