Evidence of an Expectation Gap in Corporate Environmental Reporting in South Africa

Abstract

Research evidence has suggested that the environmental reports produced by listed South African companies, like in other countries are perceived to be deficient in decision-usefulness, thus not of a standard that can satisfy the decision-making needs of users of these reports. This article explores whether the perceived deficiency in the decision-usefulness of the reports is due to differing perceptions between users and preparers of the reports with regard to what decision-useful reports ought to be. The article thus explores whether an environmental reporting expectation gap exists within South Africa with regard to what attributes the reports ought to have to be decision-useful. Using a questionnaire survey, this study elicited the perceptions of 54 individuals from three user groups, namely, ethical investors, environmental groups and accounting academics, as well as those of 42 preparers from the Top 100 South African companies listed on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange (JSE). Up on comparing the responses, significant differences were found between the views of users and preparers in relation to the attributes that decision-useful environmental reports ought to have. The differences are consistent with the existence of an expectation gap in South Africa with regard to the decision-usefulness of the environmental reports

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