Greenhouse gas disclosures by Chinese power companies: Trends, content and strategies
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This paper aims to investigate the greenhouse gas (GHG)-related disclosure trends, content and strategies of the eight most high GHG-emitting Chinese power companies, over a period when government pressure to manage GHG emissions increased.
Data were collected from the 2000-2009 annual reports, corporate social and environmental responsibility reports and websites of eight Chinese power companies. Content analysis results were supplemented with excerpts from documents written in English or Chinese. Legitimacy theory informed the interpretation of the findings.
GHG-related disclosures increased from 2002 when the Chinese Government ratified the Kyoto Protocol and promulgated stringent environmental regulations. However, some expected types of GHG-related disclosure were absent or rare. Disclosure practices were found to be underpinned by reputation management objectives and reflected a symbolic rather than substantive legitimation strategy.
This study extends the literature on GHG-related disclosures by carbon-intensive firms and points to the need for future research to examine such disclosures in different countries to appreciate the variety in practice.
While the Chinese Government appears to have driven the emergence of GHG-related disclosure practices, companies can effect improvement by expanding the scope and content of what they disclose. Also, the growing emphasis on website disclosures may present challenges in ensuring the reliability and assurance of GHG disclosures.
This is the first study to examine GHG-related disclosure practices by Chinese power-generating companies, a sector crucial to managing the GHG effects of China’s significant economic growth.