Corporate environmental disclosure in Libya : evidence and environmental determinism theory
There is no doubt that in recent years Corporate Environmental Disclosure (CED) by corporations has received much attention among accounting academic researchers. However, reviewing previous studies has identified the following existing gaps which have given an impetus for this study and need to be bridged namely: (1) the need for a new approach of analysis namely, a three-dimensional analysis that includes the intra-country (external) factors, inter-organisational (internal) factors and content analysis; (2) the requirement for investigating other available means of CED such as internal reports and stand alone environmental reports; and (3) the call for examining CED practice in Libya where there was no previous attention given to this country. This study aims to examine the various aspects of CED in Libya with a view to testing the applicability of Environmental Determinism Theory. It did this initially by providing the first detailed and longitudinal description of the extent of practices of CED which were made by the all the largest industrial companies quoted on the Libyan Industrial Production Administration for the years 1998-2001. It then endeavoured to explain and understand this evidence of CED practice (or non-practice) by utilising (1) the perspectives of a sample of corporate managers of such companies regarding the nature of corporate environmental responsibility and CED; and (2) the political, economic and social contexts in which the CED is being made. To achieve this, three methods (triangulation approach) were utilised in this study, namely, content analysis, questionnaire and historiography. The results of content analysis showed that CED has yet to develop in Libya. There is no evidence of environmental disclosure either in terms of its quantity or quality, especially if the health and safety category is excluded. Libyan companies provide some statements in their annual reports, and, in some cases, other external reports (specific forms) or internal reports related to only one category of CED namely health and safety information. Apart from health and safety disclosed, the companies studied have disclosed no other environmental information. They still have a long way to go in order to reach the level reached by their counterparts in developed countries. An interesting point was that Libyan companies, by contrast with their counterparts even in developing countries, have given more attention to negative news. The perceptions of managers were investigated by using a questionnaire survey. Fifty three questionnaires were used with a rate of response of 62%. The results suggest that the vast majority of them accept that Libyan companies should recognise their environmental responsibility and provide environmental disclosure to the central authorities. However, most managers felt that a scarcity of legal and professional standards and guidelines, along with their lack of expertise, qualification and training in the field of CED have prevented them from engaging in CED. Therefore CED has not been put in the agenda of many Libyan companies. The analysis of the environmental influence on CED practice in Libya indicates that the social context including religion seems to be having to some extent an influence upon CED practice in Libya. However, the country's unique political and economic contexts along with the managers' attitudes and qualifications were the fundamental CED disclosure determinants. Therefore, this study has concluded that CED practices in Libya are shaped not only by one single factor but by the external and internal factors. The impact of the political, economic and social (external) factors reflects the indirect influence on the disclosure environment. Whereas, the internal factors (perception and cognition) reflect the direct impact of those involved in the disclosure process, namely the managers, as they are the ones who decide what information to be disclosed.