Danubius International Conferences, 22nd EMAN Conference. Social Responsibility and Sustainability Accounting-Key Corporate Performance Drivers and Measures

Carbon accounting in the global logistics industry: Categorising institutional and stakeholder pressures on carbon disclosure strategies

David Martin Herold, Ki-Hoon Lee, Nuwan Gunarathne
Last modified: 2018-04-05


In recent years, global logistics companies have engaged in an increasing number of voluntary climate change initiatives (Herold & Lee 2017a; Kolk, Levy & Pinkse 2008; Schaltegger & Csutora 2012) in response to growing institutional pressures to reduce carbon emissions and increase transparency (de Villiers & Alexander 2014; Herold & Lee, 2018; Luo 2017; Welbeck 2017). Companies respond to such pressures by disclosing carbon related information aimed at internal audiences (e.g. board members, employees) as well as those that target audiences external to the organisation (e.g. business partners, non-governmental organisations).

In addition, responding to institutional and stakeholder pressures through carbon disclosure is increasingly considered as a key strategic determinant for the company’s long-term sustainability of global logistics companies (CDP 2010; Hrasky 2011; Lee 2012; Massa, Farneti & Scappini 2015), with disclosure of carbon related information either taken proactively to mitigate the risk of potential stakeholders’ backlash or retroactively to integrate stakeholders’ demands and expectations into the company’s operations, structures and processes (Borghei, Leung & Guthrie 2016; de Villiers, Naiker & Van Staden 2011; Hawn & Ioannou 2016; Herold & Lee 2017b).

However, given the wide range of approaches to the mix of internal and external carbon management practices (see e.g. Gibassier & Schaltegger 2015; Hrasky 2011; Kolk, Levy & Pinkse 2008; Lee 2011), the key issue of how the dynamic interaction between external and internal carbon management practices may be associated with a company’s carbon disclosure strategy remains unanswered. Therefore, this paper addresses this gap by asking the following (sub)-question(s):

RQ1. “How do internal and external pressures influence corporate carbon disclosure strategies?”

RQ1a. “To what extent do specific internal and external carbon management practices influence corporate carbon disclosure strategies?”

RQ1b. “What carbon disclosure strategies have been adopted from a corporate perspective?”

The contribution of this paper is twofold. First, we conceptualise a model of carbon disclosure strategies that proposes four ideal types, thus providing an understanding of the dynamic interaction between internal and external management practices and their influence on carbon disclosure strategies. Second, we empirically categorise carbon disclosure strategies within the global logistics industry, thereby advancing the literature on strategic carbon management and disclosure and providing a tool to assess a company’s carbon disclosure position.

Thus, this study presents a more nuanced empirical, as well as theoretical, understanding of the mechanisms through which internal and external carbon management practices influence carbon disclosure strategies. 


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