3618 How corporation-stakeholder interaction in environmental issues is reported? Comparative case study of environmental reporting in a financing, transportation and energy firm

Tiina Johanna Onkila , School of Business and Economics, University of Jyväskylä, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Kristiina Vilhelmiina Joensuu , School of Business and Economics, University of Jyväskylä, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Marileena Tuulia Koskela , Finland Futures Research Centre / School of Business and Economics, University of Turku / University of Jyväskylä, Tampere, Finland
Full Papers
  • GINrevisedOnkilaJoensuuKoskela.pdf (129.4 kB)
  • Justification of the paper:

    A wide variety of research on stakeholder demands in environmental issues has emerged. Previous research has identified stakeholders as being important drivers and demanders of corporate responsibility. As a response to those demands corporate practices have emerged – environmental reporting among others. Among other factors affecting corporate environmentalism, previous literature has identified the influence of industry type or business branch on corporate environmentalism. However, despite a wide variety of research on reporting practices and stakeholder demands, it has remained without attention how stakeholders are addressed in environmental reporting on different business branches.

    Purpose:

    The aim of the study is to describe how stakeholders are addressed in environmental reporting. We are especially interested in the interaction described between the corporation and its stakeholders in environmental reporting of three different firms operating in different business branches: financing, transport and energy, over the timeframe of five years. The data for our analysis is the corporate social responsibility reports of the three firms from years 2007–2011. To find out how stakeholders were addressed in the reports we conducted a content analysis both for quantifying the content as well as identifying qualitative similarities and differences in the data.

     Theoretical framework:

    In our theoretical framework we discuss the research on environmental demands in business and show how previous literature has identified critical groups in corporate environmentalism; regulatory stakeholders, organizational stakeholders with the ability to have a direct impact on the corporation’s bottom line, community stakeholders and the media with ability to influence society’s perception of the company. We continue by showing how business branch differences in corporate environmentalism have been identified in the previous literature. We finally discuss how previous research on environmental reporting has addressed stakeholder interaction and business branch differences.

    Results:

    The results of our study show how the three firms have addressed stakeholders in their environmental reporting within the timeframe of five years. We discuss both the similarities and differences in the way stakeholders have been addressed in the reports of these three firms. Although we found differences in the stakeholders named, the findings indicate similarities in the action described. In the reports the firms are frequently described as demanding for environmental action from the stakeholders or guiding and giving possibilities for environmentally responsible action for the stakeholders.

    Conclusions:                                                                                                                        

    The results show that the reports focus on describing the action of corporations towards certain stakeholders instead of addressing the diversity of stakeholder demands in all the branches. The reports seem to address only certain stakeholder groups, most often the self-evident ones and fail in the identification of the variety of stakeholder demands. We find it especially controversial that the firms are described as setting environmental demands in the reports, not the stakeholders. Surprisingly no clear industry based differences were identified this study. Based on our findings we question the role of environmental reporting as stakeholder management and call for an open discussion on changes in environmental reporting practices.