Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate the impact of climate change rating organisations on rated firms, to understand whether disclosure ratings can facilitate enhanced emissions performance.
Design/methodology/approach: This study uses 1,848 cross-country firm-year observations from organisations that responded to the carbon disclosure project (the rater) between 2011 and 2015 and, hence, were rated for their disclosure. Drawing on the ideology of numbers, this paper hypothesises that the disciplinary power of ratings will result in rated firms improving their subsequent disclosure scores. Following the environmentally-friendly ideology, this study hypothesises that poorly-rated firms will adopt decoupling behaviour, by improving their climate change disclosure scores without reducing the intensity of their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Findings: The results indicate that climate change disclosure ratings pressure poorly-rated firms to improve their disclosure scores in subsequent years, yet these firms are not inclined to lower their GHG emissions. Further, the direct publication of firms’ GHG emissions intensity can exert some restricted disciplinary impact on rated firms, as the more polluting firms tend to improve their subsequent climate change performance compared with those having lower emissions levels.
Practical implications: This paper argues that the ability of corporate sustainability rating schemes to influence corporate behaviour comprehensively is limited and should be used with caution.
Originality/value: This paper sheds new light on the ideological dynamics at play between the rater and the rated, while highlighting new aspects of the power-rating nexus in the climate change arena.
- Climate change
- Greenhouse gas (GHG)