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The language of US corporate environmental disclosure

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Author Info

  • Cho, Charles H.
  • Roberts, Robin W.
  • Patten, Dennis M.

Abstract

We rely on prior work in environmental disclosure and corporate impression management to investigate whether there are self-serving biases present in the language and verbal tone used in corporations' environmental disclosures. Specifically, we argue that the degree of bias in these narratives varies systematically based on firm environmental performance, hypothesizing that disclosures of worse environmental performers exhibit significantly more "optimism" and less "certainty" than their better-performing counterparts. We test our two hypotheses using a cross-sectional sample of corporate environmental disclosures contained in US 10-K annual reports. Utilizing the content analysis software DICTION to determine "optimism" and "certainty" scores for the disclosures, we find empirical support for both hypotheses. Our study contributes significantly to research in environmental disclosure by investigating bias in the use of language and verbal tone as a tool for managing stakeholder impressions and by finding empirical support for this role. Thus, the language and verbal tone used in corporate environmental disclosures, in addition to their amount and thematic content, should be considered when investigating the relation between corporate disclosure and performance.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Accounting, Organizations and Society.

Volume (Year): 35 (2010)
Issue (Month): 4 (May)
Pages: 431-443

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Handle: RePEc:eee:aosoci:v:35:y:2010:i:4:p:431-443

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/aos

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References

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  1. Cho, Charles H. & Patten, Dennis M., 2007. "The role of environmental disclosures as tools of legitimacy: A research note," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 32(7-8), pages 639-647.
  2. Roberts, Robin W., 1992. "Determinants of corporate social responsibility disclosure: An application of stakeholder theory," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 17(6), pages 595-612, August.
  3. Clarkson, Peter M. & Li, Yue & Richardson, Gordon D. & Vasvari, Florin P., 2008. "Revisiting the relation between environmental performance and environmental disclosure: An empirical analysis," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 33(4-5), pages 303-327.
  4. Hughes, Susan B. & Anderson, Allison & Golden, Sarah, 2001. "Corporate environmental disclosures: are they useful in determining environmental performance?," Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 217-240.
  5. Charles Cho & Dennis Patten & Robin Roberts, 2006. "Corporate Political Strategy: An Examination of the Relation between Political Expenditures, Environmental Performance, and Environmental Disclosure," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 67(2), pages 139-154, August.
  6. Aerts, Walter & Cormier, Denis, 2009. "Media legitimacy and corporate environmental communication," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 1-27, January.
  7. Vanessa Magness, 2006. "Strategic posture, financial performance and environmental disclosure: An empirical test of legitimacy theory," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 19(4), pages 540-563, July.
  8. Aerts, Walter, 1994. "On the use of accounting logic as an explanatory category in narrative accounting disclosures," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 19(4-5), pages 337-353.
  9. Neu, D. & Warsame, H. & Pedwell, K., 1998. "Managing public impressions: environmental disclosures in annual reports," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 265-282, April.
  10. Reitenga, Austin L., 2000. "Environmental regulation, capital intensity, and cross-sectional variation in market returns," Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 189-198, June.
  11. Patten, Dennis M., 1992. "Intra-industry environmental disclosures in response to the Alaskan oil spill: A note on legitimacy theory," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 17(5), pages 471-475, July.
  12. Patten, Dennis M., 2002. "The relation between environmental performance and environmental disclosure: a research note," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 27(8), pages 763-773, November.
  13. Aerts, Walter, 2005. "Picking up the pieces: impression management in the retrospective attributional framing of accounting outcomes," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 493-517, August.
  14. Hopwood, Anthony G., 2009. "Accounting and the environment," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 34(3-4), pages 433-439, April.
  15. Elizabeth Demers & Clara Vega, 2008. "Soft information in earnings announcements: news or noise?," International Finance Discussion Papers 951, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Wendy Heltzer, 2011. "The asymmetric relationship between corporate environmental responsibility and earnings management: Evidence from the United States," Managerial Auditing Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 26(1), pages 65-88, January.
  2. Renata Blanc & Manuel Castelo Branco & Charles H. Cho & Joanne Sopt, 2013. "In Search Of Disclosure Effects Of The Siemens Ag’S Corruption Scandal," OBEGEF Working Papers 015, OBEGEF - Observatório de Economia e Gestão de Fraude & OBEGEF Working Papers on Fraud and Corruption.
  3. Andrea Pérez & Ignacio Rodríguez del Bosque, 2012. "The Role of CSR in the Corporate Identity of Banking Service Providers," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 108(2), pages 145-166, June.
  4. Cristiana Parisi, 2013. "The impact of organisational alignment on the effectiveness of firms’ sustainability strategic performance measurement systems: an empirical analysis," Journal of Management and Governance, Springer, vol. 17(1), pages 71-97, February.
  5. Jody Emel & Madoshi H. Makene & Esther Wangari, 2012. "Problems with Reporting and Evaluating Mining Industry Community Development Projects: A Case Study from Tanzania," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(2), pages 257-277, February.
  6. X. Meng & S. Zeng & C. Tam & X. Xu, 2013. "Whether Top Executives’ Turnover Influences Environmental Responsibility: From the Perspective of Environmental Information Disclosure," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 114(2), pages 341-353, May.
  7. Talbot, David & Boiral, Olivier, 2013. "Can we trust corporates GHG inventories? An investigation among Canada's large final emitters," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 1075-1085.

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