The voluntary reporting of environmental information has increased in recent years, as attention has focused on the environmental i1npacts of corporate activities. This study examines how corporate environmental performance relates to the level and nature of environmental information disclosed by Australian companies. It employs an innovative measure of environmental performance, using data from the National Pollutant Inventory (NPI). Environmental disclosures are measured using a content analysis index based on the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) sustainability reporting guidelines (Clarkson, Li, Richardson & Vasvari, 2007).
Results from a sample of 51 Australian firms examined in 2002 and 2006 indicate that firms with relatively worse environ1nental performance disclose greater quantities of environmental information. These results are consistent with the predictions of socio-political theories. Evidence regarding the nature of disclosures is mixed. In cross-sectional analyses, the disclosures of poor environmental performers are found to contain a greater proportion of objective and verifiable (i.e. "hard") information. A longitudinal approach however indicates that relative improvements in environmental performance are associated with increased levels of "hard" disclosures. This result is partially consistent with economics-based theories of voluntary disclosure, and has implications for future studies. The paper concludes that, overall, the type of environmental information disclosed does not accurately reflect a firm's underlying environmental performance.