This thesis investigates the incentives associated with voluntary environmental disclosures made by Australian firms in their annual reports. Primarily, examination is undertaken of the rationale for intra-industry variation in disclosure, investigating mining, industrial and financial industries. The hypotheses developed are based upon the premise that current environmental legislation imposes non-trivial costs upon Australian firms resulting in expenditure which the firms wish to report to interested parties. The conduct of activities, and investment in activities, identified by legislation as environmentally detrimental are argued to heighten the demand for disclosure of firm compliance in certain circumstances. A variant of stakeholder theory (Roberts, 1992) is also utilised to argue that certain parties are likely, due to consequences of the legislation, to demand the firm disclose environmental information. Generally, the more legislatively identified activities conducted or invested in, the higher the expected level of environmental disclosure.
The results of the study provide support for proposition that conduct of certain activities by a firm provide incentives for environmental disclosure. However, the level of investment in activities is a comparatively inferior measure. The nature of the activity is paramount to the relationship with disclosure. Activities impacting directly upon the environment, such as mining, woodchipping, or land development, exhibit a positive relationship with disclosures, while industrial operations, such as food processing, exhibit a consistently negative association. Generally, the type of activities conducted are more strongly associated with disclosures by mining firms than disclosure by industrials.