Keywords: environmental disclosure, web disclosure, information costs, proprietary costs, legitimacy theory, internet
The impact of the web on information and communication modes: the case of corporate environmental disclosure
The World Wide Web (web) considerably enhances corporations' ability to convey their strategies and other relevant information directly to their key stakeholders. However, it is not widely known if and how the advent of the web has modified the way corporations determine their disclosure strategies. Focusing on environmental reporting and using a cost/benefits framework, the study's purpose is twofold. First, we assess the extent of web-based environmental disclosure as well as its determinants. Second, we compare the determinants of print- and web-based environmental reporting. Results suggest that information costs and a firm's proprietary costs as well as its level of media exposure are the key determinants of both print- and web-based environmental disclosure. Results also suggest that environmental disclosure is determined by a firm's context (age of fixed assets, size, SEC regulations), with industry-wide trends and practices playing an important role in explaining both print and web environmental disclosure. Furthermore, results show an extensive overlap between print disclosure and web disclosure, with the use of the web as a disclosure platform still being driven by traditional print-based considerations. Hence, it appears that the web's potential as a reporting platform is not fully exploited.