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United Nations Decade on Biodiversity: A study of the reporting practices of the Australian mining industry
Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore the biodiversity reporting practices and trends of the top 50 Australian mining companies before and after the United Nations (UN) declared the period 2011-2020 as the “Decade on Biodiversity”.
Design/methodology/approach: Using content analysis and interviews, this study compares the extent and type of biodiversity disclosures made by the Australian Stock Exchange’s top 50 metals and mining companies both before and after the UN’s “Decade on Biodiversity” declaration in 2010.
Findings: A significant increase in the amount of biodiversity reporting is observed between the 2010 fiscal year preceding the UN’s declaration and the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years following the declaration. The findings reveal, however, that the extent of biodiversity reporting is quite variable, with some companies showing substantial increases in their biodiversity reporting and others showing modest or no increases. In particular, the larger companies in the sample showed a statistically significant increase in their disclosures on biodiversity in 2013 compared with 2010, while the increase in biodiversity disclosures by smaller companies was not significant. While interviewees spoke about their companies being more open and transparent, the biodiversity information that is being reported would not enable external parties to assess the company’s biodiversity performance.
Research limitations/implications: To minimise an organisation’s use of biodiversity reporting as an impression management tool, it is suggested that biodiversity reporting should be more impact based and organisations should provide a report of their activities and their direct and tangible impacts on short-term and long-term biodiversity in and around their operating sites. A possible limitation of the present study pertains to its focus on companies’ voluntary disclosures made in their annual reports and sustainability reports, as opposed to other possible formal or even informal disclosure mediums.
Social implications: Australia is one of 17 mega-diverse wildlife countries in the world. Finding ways to support the country’s biodiversity framework and strategy are crucial to this continued status. Due to the mining industry’s significant impact on Australia’s biodiversity, a strong need exists for biodiversity reporting by this industry. Furthermore, this reporting should be provided on a site-by-site basis. At present, the reporting aggregation typically conducted by mining companies produces obscure information that is neither useful for stakeholders who are impacted by the mining companies’ activities nor for policymakers who are vested with responsibility for protecting and sustaining the world’s biodiversity.
Originality/value: This study examines the biodiversity reporting and discourse practices of mining companies in Australia and develops a 50-item biodiversity reporting index to measure the biodiversity reporting practices.
Publication titleAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
PublisherEmerald Publishing Limited
Place of publicationUnited Kingdom
Rights statement© Emerald Publishing Limited