New Zealand shareholder attitudes towards corporate environmental disclosure

Purpose – The natural environment has become an increasingly important business issue over the last ten years while shareholder views on the importance of corporate environmental disclosure have not been extensively investigated. The purpose of this paper is to report the requirements of individual shareholders for the disclosure and regulation of environmental information and their intended use of the information. Design/methodology/approach – Respondents were questioned using an online survey whether they want specific types of environmental information from companies and if so, where they want it disclosed, why they want it disclosed and if they feel strongly enough about it to want it made compulsory and be subject to an audit. The authors regard New Zealand as an ideal experimental setting for the investigation of shareholder views and focus on the members of an active shareholders' association in New Zealand and obtain a very high response rate. Findings – The paper finds that most shareholders are very positive about the disclosure of a range of environmental information items and furthermore they want environmental information to be made compulsory, to be audited, and to be published in the annual report and also on the company website. The most important reason given by shareholders for requiring environmental information is that they want companies to be accountable for their environmental impacts. The results are potentially significant for company governance and management decision making and will also have policy implications for regulators. Practical implications – The findings have important implications for the government, the accounting profession and other standard setters. The paper suggests that the time has come for legislators, regulatory bodies and standard setters to take note of the policy implications if such a large proportion (59 percent – 72 percent) of shareholders want environmental disclosure to be compulsory and prescribed and not left to the discretion of companies. Social implications – The information needs of individual shareholders who make their own investment decisions should be of great interest to regulators, because such investors rely on publicly available information, whereas institutional investors also collect private information. Regulators need to remove information asymmetry by regulating and/or mandating disclosures and shareholder requirements for information should be an important consideration. Originality/value – This paper is of high value. The paper addresses why the information is requested and what it would be used for, something that the studies prior to the year 2000 did not cover. In addition this study is the first to survey New Zealand investors 1996, i.e. prior to the resurgence of late in societal interest in environmental issues.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
de Villiers, C., & van Staden, C. (2012). New Zealand shareholder attitudes towards corporate environmental disclosure. Pacific Accounting Review, 24(2), 186-210.