The Influence of Corporate Governance on the Comprehensiveness of Social and Environmental Disclosures: A New Zealand Study
Phanse, Rohit Prakash
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Prior studies found that New Zealand businesses are facing enormous pressure from local communities, government, and other stakeholders and are increasingly being held accountable for their social and environmental actions. In New Zealand, although the NZX Corporate Governance Code requires listed companies to provide Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) information, companies' CSR activities and the amount of CSR information they make available in the public domain remain at the discretion of management. Hence, the degree of engagement and CSR activities, including the quality of social and environmental information disclosure, depends significantly on the company's corporate governance. Research suggests that New Zealand companies are not fully committed to their CSR activities, and in most instances, CSR activities are only conducted to create an impression that the company is concerned about society, the environment, and its stakeholders. This approach not only raises significant concerns about companies' CSR commitments but also the effectiveness of their corporate governance mechanisms involving CSR activities and providing comprehensive information on those activities. Whether the corporate governance mechanisms influence New Zealand companies in making comprehensive CSR information available is still unknown. Accordingly, my study is motivated to examine the influence of the corporate governance mechanisms on New Zealand companies making comprehensiveness of CSR information available, which prior studies have ignored. Furthermore, prior corporate governance and CSR interlinked studies overlooked the influence of corporate governance on Indigenous people-related disclosures. Accordingly, this study also addresses the gap in the literature in this area by examining Indigenous people-related disclosures of New Zealand companies. Additionally, as part of social responsibility, companies should make information available on the social consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic which are also examined in this study separately. A sample of the top 50 New Zealand companies (NZX 50) is selected using two reporting years, 2020 and 2021, for environmental and social disclosure for one reporting year-2021 for the Covid-19 and Indigenous people-related disclosures. This study conducted using agency and resource dependence theories and results were analysed using various statistical analyses including multiple regression model. The findings of this study indicate that Indigenous directors and the board CSR committee significantly influence New Zealand companies' social and environmental information disclosures. However, this study did not find much significance in the other individual board characteristics for providing CSR-related information. Regarding Covid impacts-related disclosure scores, the findings suggest that even though most New Zealand companies provided a good amount of information, the governance mechanisms do not seem to influence these disclosures. Companies' Indigenous people-related disclosures are mainly influenced by larger board size, a higher proportion of female representation and ESG-qualified directors. The findings of this study contributes to a few practical implications that will help New Zealand companies improve their constitutions to include more CSR-related responsibilities for their directors and appoint directors that will elevate the availability of CSR-related information. Having CSR committee and indigenous director on the board can improve board’s influence on making comprehensive CSR information available.