Question: Many companies issue external reports to provide information about their

Many companies issue external reports to provide information about their environmental activities and performance. Often, this information is included within a “sustainability” or “corporate responsibility” report that addresses environmental as well as economic and social performance. Some companies issue standalone reports, while other companies include this information in their annual report. According to a KPMG International survey, approximately 80 percent of the world’s largest companies issued some type of sustainability report for 2008. The biggest proportion of large companies issuing a report was in Japan (93%), followed by United Kingdom (91%), Brazil (78%), and United States (74%).
Global Reporting InitiativeTM (GRITM) is a network-based organization in Amsterdam that has developed a freely-available framework for disclosure of economic, environmental, and social performance. GRI’s Sustainability Reporting GuidelinesTM include reporting principles and recommendations for specific types of disclosures and performance measures, referred to as GRI core indicators. KPMG’s 2008 survey found that 77 percent of the surveyed firms used GRI sustainability reporting guidelines. Under these guidelines, companies provide information to stakeholders on a wide range of GRI core indicators. Examples of three environmental GRI core indicators are listed below (adapted from Indicator Protocols Set: Environment (EN) version 3.0, 2006).

A. Conduct research on the Internet to identify information about the environmental and/or sustainability reporting of two companies in the same industry that are located in different countries. (Examples: Adidas and Nike, Unilever and General Foods, Sony and Samsung, and Kodak and Canon.) Answer the following questions.
1. Do these companies follow GRI reporting guidelines, another set of guidelines, or no guidelines for reporting environmental and/or sustainability information?
2. What factors are likely to affect a company’s willingness to externally publish an environmental report?
3. Which company provides the easier-to-find and most understandable information about environmental activities and performance? Explain.
4. If one company provides more complete environmental performance reporting than a competitor, does that mean the company is more responsible than its competitor toward the environment? Why or why not?
5. Discuss ways in which the process of preparing and publishing an environmental report is likely to help a company reduce its environmental costs.
B. Is environmental reporting an ethical issue? Why or why not? Include in your answer a discussion of the three GRI core indicators listed above.
C. Discuss an organization’s responsibility to report information about environmental activities and performance to various stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, other companies, government regulators, product customers, and the general public.
D. Should all governments require companies to publish environmental reports using GRI or similar criteria? What values did you use to arrive at your conclusion?
E. In this chapter, we learned about the problem of product-cost cross-subsidization. Why might product-cost cross-subsidization be a particularly important issue for environmental costs?
F. Suppose managers are interested in accumulating information for their company’s environmental report. They want to report information in total for the company and also by product line. Identify ways that ABC systems could be used to capture product line information for the three GRI core indicators listedabove.

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