Due to the increased awareness of the environmental issues, nowadays sustainability information has been seen as a major driver of companies’ value creation in the long term, leading to an increasing demand for the disclosure of their sustainability performance from stakeholders and the public society (Deloitte 2013). As a result, besides traditional financial reporting, companies have been encouraged to disclose sustainability information as well. This report will discuss the international benchmarks for environmental accounting and analyze the adoption of relevant reporting frameworks by two companies, namely OZ Minerals and Dow Chemical Company, with recommendations for improving their reporting quality in the future.
Currently, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) drives global sustainability reporting by providing the Sustainability Reporting Framework (the Framework) that is widely used in the world, in which detailed Sustainability Reporting Guidelines (the Guidelines) are included to set reporting principles as well as standard disclosures (GRI n.d.).
In terms of the environmental aspect, the Guidelines require companies to disclose their impacts in relation to inputs such as material and energy consumptions as well as outputs, including emissions and waste (GRI 2013). Such disclosure comprises both the current level of relevant activities as well as reductions in them over the recent years (GRI 2013). Also, both absolute and intensity ratios are expected to be reported in each aspect (GRI 2013). While absolute emissions disclosure reflect the actual total amount of GHG produced, normalized emissions (emission intensity) link the produced GHG to a financial measure or a measure of activity and thus, might be more appropriate when comparing performance among different companies (CDSB 2012).
By providing the detailed guidelines for environmental reporting, GRI meets users’ needs from different countries. However, various legislation requirements from different countries might cause differences in reporting. According to Choi and Mueller (1984), various factors can directly affect the accounting development, including legal, political, economic, cultural and professional factors. Also, accounting for corporate social responsibilities by a firm appears to fit the macroeconomic pattern of accounting development with the national economic policies which might be intervened by the government (Choi and Mueller 1984).
With regard to carbon reporting, Australian companies follow the Australian Government’s National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme (NGERS) to measure their emissions, while the US Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions are governed under the Clean Air Act. As mentioned by Radebaugh and Gray (1997), accounting development is also affected by the internationalization in one country. The increasing globalization of business in different forms from foreign direct investments, multinational corporate strategy, to rapid growth of international financial markets encourages companies to adopt the international accounting standards in order to provide more useful and comparable information to stakeholders (Radebaugh and Gray 1997). Since both the US and Australia are developed countries with many international companies, it seems to be appropriate to adopt GRI as a guideline for sustainability reporting.
In the following sections, carbon emissions reporting practices of two companies will be discussed and compared with some recommendations on improving their reporting qualities.
OZ Minerals Limited
OZ Minerals Limited is a single-mine operator in Australia and it has demonstrated its industry leadership in its environmental management through abiding required reporting frameworks and undertaking various green steps to minimize pollutions.
According to OZ Minerals Limited (2013a), it measured and disclosed its environmental performance based on various reporting frameworks. GHG