Biodiversity reporting in China: an exploratory study
This research investigated the practice of biodiversity disclosure in the most recent Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports of Chinese top listed 50 companies on the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE). A search of company websites and databases found 44 CSR reports from 2013 or 2014 produced in either English or Chinese from the SSE top 50 companies. Reports were produced by companies from a range of industries. Biodiversity disclosures within this sample of reports were identified first via a keyword search and then by thoroughly reading each of the reports. A total of 102 individual disclosures were identified. Five research questions were addressed in this study. First, identification of how many companies disclose biodiversity information from the SSE50 was undertaken. It was found that 23 out of 44 reporting companies disclose biodiversity information. Second, the characteristics of the companies that report biodiversity information was examined. In relation to industry representation of biodiversity reporting companies, both financial and manufacturing industries were the most represented whilst lower number of biodiversity reporters occurred in companies from the construction, agriculture, mining and transportation industries. Third, the content/type of biodiversity information reported by the SSE50 companies was analysed. This was undertaken by categorizing the disclosures by content. In relation to the content of disclosures, disclosures on habitat protection, especially tree planting, were the most common, totalling 68 disclosures. The remaining disclosures were related to species conservation, which refers to domestic animals and wildlife. Fourth, the potential influences of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) on the reporting of biodiversity information by Chinese SSE50 companies was considered. To answer this question disclosures were analysed via the GRI guidelines to identify the apparent influence of this international framework. It was found that the GRI guidelines have a high level of influence on biodiversity disclosure of the Chinese SSE50 companies with 95% (97 out of 102) of the disclosures relating directly to one of the GRI biodiversity indicators. Lastly, the difference in the amount and content of biodiversity disclosure between English and Chinese language reporters was examined. It was found that the English language biodiversity disclosure surpasses those in the Chinese language in both the amount and content perspective, which could indicate that there is more demand for biodiversity disclosures from English language stakeholders than from stakeholders in the Chinese context. This study provides an examination of biodiversity reporting within Chinese companies, something that is currently lacking in the extant literature. Given the exploratory nature of the study and the range of findings, the dissertation concludes with areas for future research which could extend this research and lead to a greater understanding of biodiversity reporting in the Chinese context.