Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Business and Law

First Advisor

Associate Professor Hadrian Djajadlekerta

Second Advisor

Dr Zubaidah Ismail

Abstract

The lack of a standardised reporting framework in sustainability reporting has resulted in companies producing unaudited generic sustainability information that are not reflective of companies’ actual sustainability performance. The disclosures also differ in quality and hinder comparison. This study addresses these problems with the development of a new scoring index that integrates the hard and soft principles in Clarkson, Li, Richardson and Vasvari’s (2008) environmental index with performance indicators of the Global Reporting Initiatives (GRI) framework. The newly developed index comprises all three aspects of sustainability (economic, environmental and social) and adopts a standardised scoring scale that is reflective of companies’ sustainability performance.

The new index was applied to evaluate annual reports and stand-alone sustainability reports of listed companies in the resources industry of Australia. This study investigates whether significant correlations existed between the extent of sustainability disclosures (economic, environmental and social) and company characteristics (company size, financial performance, board composition and type of resources extracted).

This study found that companies generally produced minimal sustainability information with vast diversity in their disclosure items. Significant positive correlations were found between sustainability disclosures and company size, company financial performance, proportion of independent directors, multiple directorships and women directors on the board. Companies without CEO duality and those with a sustainability committee disclosed more sustainability information. However, no significant differences in sustainability disclosures were identified between companies operating in the metals and mining sector and the energy and utilities sector. Companies disclosed more soft than hard disclosure items and significantly more information on the economic aspect than the environmental and social aspects. This industry-specific study suggests that improvements identified by the new index is essential to enhance the current sustainability reporting practices and performance and to promote a benchmark for quality sustainability reporting.

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