There is a growing consensus that a consistent approach to sustainability reporting would improve stakeholder decision making, yet such disclosure is of a voluntary nature. This paper seeks to explore the extent to which Australian forestry companies both report their sustainability practices and attempt to apply the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) reporting guidelines, despite the absence of sector specific indicators. A web document analysis approach was employed to examine the sustainability practices of the six forestry companies listed on the Australian stock exchange (ASX) as well as to identify the subliminal messages that Australian forestry companies use to send out specific messages to their stakeholders. Text and images provided in their publically available annual reports, sustainability reports and website information were analysed using an interpretative lens to understand the ways in which companies were attempting to influence the perceptions of the stakeholders. The findings suggest that while all forestry companies display an implicit understanding of the importance of sustainability to their stakeholders, only a few actually report comprehensively on these issues and follow the GRI guidelines. The research conducted was based on the collection of secondary data and not primary data as well. This study provides two specific contributions. First, it demonstrates the extent to which the Australian forestry industry has responded to the call from the GRI to implement the sustainability reporting guidelines in order to facilitate transparency and accountability which in turn provides their stakeholders with a universally-applicable, comparable framework from which to understand disclosed information. Secondly, the study reveals ways in which companies seek to influence the perceptions of shareholders through their use of images rather specific data.
|Keywords:||Accountability, Australia, Environmental Sustainability, Forestry Industry, GRI, Stakeholders, Web Analysis|
Associate Lecturer, School of Accounting, University of Western Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Associate Head, School of Accounting, University of Western Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
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