Engaging with Organisations in Pursuit of Improved Sustainability Accounting and Performance

Posted: 11 Dec 2008

See all articles by Carol A Adams

Carol A Adams

Durham University Business School

Carlos Larrinaga

University of Burgos

Date Written: December 9, 2008


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.

Keywords: Accountability, Ethical, social and environmental accounting, Engagement, Institutional theory, Research methods, Sustainability performance, Sustainability reporting

Suggested Citation

Adams, Carol A and Larrinaga, Carlos, Engaging with Organisations in Pursuit of Improved Sustainability Accounting and Performance (December 9, 2008). Accounting, Auditing and Accountability, Vol. 20, No. 3, 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1313687

Carol A Adams

Durham University Business School ( email )

Old Elvet
Mill Hill Lane
Durham, Durham DH1 3HP
United Kingdom
1913345200 (Phone)

Carlos Larrinaga (Contact Author)

University of Burgos ( email )

Plaza Infanta Elena
E09001 Burgos

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