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Engaging with organisations in pursuit of improved sustainability accounting and performance

  • Carol A. Adams
  • Carlos Larrinaga-González

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present a case for research in ethical, social and environmental (or sustainability) accounting and accountability which engages with those organisations claiming to manage and report their sustainability performance. In addition, the paper reviews the contributions in this special issue. Design/methodology/approach – The paper provides an analysis and critique of the extent of engagement research in the field of sustainability accounting and accountability. It draws on the fields of management, management accounting and critical accounting to present a case for further research engagement with sustainability accounting and accountability practice. Findings – The paper finds that the extant literature in the field of sustainability accounting and reporting, in contrast to the fields of management accounting and management, has largely ignored practice within organisations. The lack of “engaging research” is found to be due to concerns about increasing the breadth of participants in the social accounting agenda and “managerial capture”. The paper argues that further research engaging with organisations is needed in order to identify how accounting and management systems might reduce their negative sustainability impacts. The paper argues that such research can benefit from the methodological and theoretical insights of other disciplines. Research limitations/implications – The paper suggests where further contributions might be made by future research endeavours engaging with organisations. Practical implications – Engagement research in sustainability accounting and reporting has the potential to improve theorizing, practice and the sustainability performance of organisations. Originality/value – Drawing on the methods and theories of other disciplines and the papers in the special issue, the paper presents a way forward for researchers engaging with organisations practicing sustainability accounting and reporting.

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Article provided by Emerald Group Publishing in its journal Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal.

Volume (Year): 20 (2007)
Issue (Month): 3 (April)
Pages: 333-355

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Handle: RePEc:eme:aaajpp:v:20:y:2007:i:3:p:333-355
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References listed on IDEAS
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  1. Carlos Larrinaga-Gonzélez & Vincente Pérez-Chamorro, 2008. "Sustainability Accounting and Accountability in Public Water Companies," Public Money & Management, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 28(6), pages 337-343, December.
  2. Burchell, Stuart & Clubb, Colin & Hopwood, Anthony & Hughes, John & Nahapiet, Janine, 1980. "The roles of accounting in organizations and society," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 5-27, January.
  3. Gordon, Lawrence A. & Miller, Danny, 1976. "A contingency framework for the design of accounting information systems," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 59-69, January.
  4. Waterhouse, J. H. & Tiessen, P., 1978. "A contingency framework for management accounting systems research," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 65-76, February.
  5. Medawar, Charles, 1976. "The social audit: A political view," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 1(4), pages 389-394, October.
  6. Gray, Rob, 1992. "Accounting and environmentalism: An exploration of the challenge of gently accounting for accountability, transparency and sustainability," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 17(5), pages 399-425, July.
  7. Brendan O'Dwyer & Jeffrey Unerman, 2007. "From functional to social accountability: Transforming the accountability relationship between funders and non-governmental development organisations," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 20(3), pages 446-471, April.
  8. Otley, David T., 1980. "The contingency theory of management accounting: Achievement and prognosis," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 5(4), pages 413-428, October.
  9. Ahrens, Thomas & Chapman, Christopher S., 2006. "Doing qualitative field research in management accounting: Positioning data to contribute to theory," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 31(8), pages 819-841, November.
  10. Meyer, John W., 1983. "On the celebration of rationality: Some comments on Boland and Pondy," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 8(2-3), pages 235-240, May.
  11. Neu, D. & Warsame, H. & Pedwell, K., 1998. "Managing public impressions: environmental disclosures in annual reports," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 265-282, April.
  12. Colin Dey, 2007. "Social accounting at Traidcraft plc: A struggle for the meaning of fair trade," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 20(3), pages 423-445, April.
  13. Jan Bebbington & Judy Brown & Bob Frame & Ian Thomson, 2007. "Theorizing engagement: the potential of a critical dialogic approach," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 20(3), pages 356-381, April.
  14. Hopwood, Anthony G., 1978. "Towards an organizational perspective for the study of accounting and information systems," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 3-13, February.
  15. Laughlin, Richard C., 1987. "Accounting systems in organisational contexts: A case for critical theory," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 12(5), pages 479-502, August.
  16. Power, Michael K., 1991. "Educating accountants: Towards a critical ethnography," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 333-353.
  17. Meyer, John W., 1990. "Sources and effects of decisions: A comment on Brunsson," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 15(1-2), pages 61-65.
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