Purpose The role that the board can have in influencing the adoption of non-financial reporting (NFR) by companies is a topic that has raised interest in the recent literature. However, very few have so far been said on the logic that underpins the selection by corporate boards of a particular model (sustainability and/or integrated). This study aims to examine if and to what extent board characteristics may influence the choice of companies to voluntarily publish a sustainability report, an integrated report or both of them, and if moderating variables, relating to incentives towards corporate transparency, may have an influence. Both of these types of reporting tools are in fact aimed at improving company disclosure towards sustainable development. Design/methodology/approach Through a multi-nomial regression analysis, this study tests the assumptions in a sample of companies listed on the Eurostoxx600 that adopt integrated or sustainability reporting or both of them for the period 2015–2018 for a total of 2,103 firm-years observations. Findings The results reveal that sustainability reporting is associated with board independence only, whilst the adoption of integrated reporting is influenced by board size and board independence. The same two variables influence also those companies that jointly adopt both sustainability and an integrated report. This confirms that integrated reporting requires more competencies and monitoring to be adopted. Furthermore, the results provide evidence that information asymmetry and financial constraints influence the decision of companies to publish the integrated report, sustainability report or both, whilst growth opportunities do not. Hence, moderating variables can have a role in explaining this association, and especially those that are related to the firm’s incentives related to the provision of financial capital by investors. Research limitations/implications This study contributes to the literature in three ways. First, it proposes an incremental analysis of the relationship between board characteristics and voluntary disclosure of integrated reporting, considering the effects of moderating variables on this association. Second, the above relationship is examined in a comparative way vis-à-vis the adoption of sustainability reporting. Third, it demonstrates that the analysis of these reporting tools can benefit from an understanding that relies on both agency and stakeholder theories, that have to be conceived somehow complementary. In terms of limitations, this study is exclusively focussed on larger European listed firms, and therefore, the findings may not be valid for small and medium firms and for companies operating outside Europe. Practical implications This study provides useful insights for managers and policymakers to better understand which are the characteristics of the board composition that can best encourage a company to pursue a reporting strategy based on sustainable development. This results to be particularly relevant and timely in the European context if the authors take into consideration the developments of the European Parliament and Commission towards the launch of a new legislative proposal on sustainable corporate governance in 2021. Originality/value The study contributes to the existing literature in two ways. First, it offers a unique perspective on the direct and indirect effects of board characteristics on the adoption of integrated and/or sustainability reports by examining it in a comparative perspective. Second, it further demonstrates that the analysis of NFR and especially integrated reporting might benefit from the adoption of multiple conceptual lenses, in this case, agency and stakeholder theories.

Board characteristics and the choice between sustainability and integrated reporting: a European analysis

Paola Rossi
2022-01-01

Abstract

Purpose The role that the board can have in influencing the adoption of non-financial reporting (NFR) by companies is a topic that has raised interest in the recent literature. However, very few have so far been said on the logic that underpins the selection by corporate boards of a particular model (sustainability and/or integrated). This study aims to examine if and to what extent board characteristics may influence the choice of companies to voluntarily publish a sustainability report, an integrated report or both of them, and if moderating variables, relating to incentives towards corporate transparency, may have an influence. Both of these types of reporting tools are in fact aimed at improving company disclosure towards sustainable development. Design/methodology/approach Through a multi-nomial regression analysis, this study tests the assumptions in a sample of companies listed on the Eurostoxx600 that adopt integrated or sustainability reporting or both of them for the period 2015–2018 for a total of 2,103 firm-years observations. Findings The results reveal that sustainability reporting is associated with board independence only, whilst the adoption of integrated reporting is influenced by board size and board independence. The same two variables influence also those companies that jointly adopt both sustainability and an integrated report. This confirms that integrated reporting requires more competencies and monitoring to be adopted. Furthermore, the results provide evidence that information asymmetry and financial constraints influence the decision of companies to publish the integrated report, sustainability report or both, whilst growth opportunities do not. Hence, moderating variables can have a role in explaining this association, and especially those that are related to the firm’s incentives related to the provision of financial capital by investors. Research limitations/implications This study contributes to the literature in three ways. First, it proposes an incremental analysis of the relationship between board characteristics and voluntary disclosure of integrated reporting, considering the effects of moderating variables on this association. Second, the above relationship is examined in a comparative way vis-à-vis the adoption of sustainability reporting. Third, it demonstrates that the analysis of these reporting tools can benefit from an understanding that relies on both agency and stakeholder theories, that have to be conceived somehow complementary. In terms of limitations, this study is exclusively focussed on larger European listed firms, and therefore, the findings may not be valid for small and medium firms and for companies operating outside Europe. Practical implications This study provides useful insights for managers and policymakers to better understand which are the characteristics of the board composition that can best encourage a company to pursue a reporting strategy based on sustainable development. This results to be particularly relevant and timely in the European context if the authors take into consideration the developments of the European Parliament and Commission towards the launch of a new legislative proposal on sustainable corporate governance in 2021. Originality/value The study contributes to the existing literature in two ways. First, it offers a unique perspective on the direct and indirect effects of board characteristics on the adoption of integrated and/or sustainability reports by examining it in a comparative perspective. Second, it further demonstrates that the analysis of NFR and especially integrated reporting might benefit from the adoption of multiple conceptual lenses, in this case, agency and stakeholder theories.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11368/3040442
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