To read this content please select one of the options below:

Making a difference: Sustainability reporting, accountability and organisational change

Carol A. Adams (School of Business, Faculty of Law and Management, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia)
Patty McNicholas (Department of Accounting and Finance, Monash University, Clayton, Australia)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 12 June 2007




The purpose of this study is to contribute to the understanding of corporate processes for developing a sustainability report, the hurdles faced by organisations and the way in which organisational change towards improved accountability occurs and can lead to changes in sustainability performance.


This research involves engagement through an action research approach involving the observation of corporate meetings, the provision of feedback on those meetings by the researchers and review of internet and hard copy sustainability reporting.


The study identified a number of impediments to the development of a sustainability reporting framework and its integration into planning and decision making, as well as forces for change. These were analysed using the organisational literature, particularly Kurt Lewin's integrated model of planned change. Differences were observed between the state‐owned organisation and prior studies of shareholder owned companies in their motivations for achieving sustainability and greater accountability.

Practical implications

From the organisation's perspective, the study provided immediate feedback which enhanced reporting practices and the incorporation of sustainability issues into decision making. The study has the potential to improve practice in other organisations through the identification of impediments to and forces for change not considered in prior theorising.


The action research approach contributes to knowledge and theorising in a way which could not have been achieved through interviews alone. It assisted change within the organisation in: adopting a sustainability reporting framework; integrating sustainability issues into planning and decision making; and, further embedding sustainability and accountability values. The findings in the state owned organisation contrast recent findings for shareholder‐owned companies.



Adams, C.A. and McNicholas, P. (2007), "Making a difference: Sustainability reporting, accountability and organisational change", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 382-402.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles