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Corporate Environmental Reporting: What's In a Metric?
Business Strategy and the Environment (2003)
  • Scott Marshall, Portland State University
  • Darrell L. Brown, Portland State University
Although there has been increased attention to corporate environmental reports (CERs), there has yet to be a close examination of the metrics used in these reports. Metrics do not address the content of CERs, but, perhaps more importantly, metrics provide the means for conveying the content. In this paper, we analyze metrics used in 79 corporations' recent CER reports. We define and use an 'environmental sustainability' lens, and apply two environmental metrics taxonomies to CER metrics. We also consider the implications of key internal and external firm factors on CER metrics. Our findings suggest that (i) firms' compliance with ISO 14001 increases the presence of future oriented metrics, (ii) a majority of CER content uses lagging metrics with descriptive and operational performance information, (iii) larger firms are more likely than smaller firms to use future oriented metrics and (iv) there are noticeable differences across countries/regions in terms of CER metrics. Several important issues seem evident from the study. First, the metrics most commonly used in CERs provide little information about future performance. Second, the majority of metrics describe operations performance rather than environmental impact. Third, even though the sample was chosen based on a priori indicators of corporate environmental awareness, only about half of the companies sampled had a CER available. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. and ERP Environment

Publication Date
February 27, 2003
Citation Information
Marshall, R. S., & Brown, D. (2003). Corporate environmental reporting: What's in a metric? Business Strategy and Environment, 12, 87-106.