The purpose of this paper is to review the development of engagement research in pursuit of improved sustainability accounting and performance and to identify issues in the further development of this field. In particular, the authors consider the implications of this research for practice, policy and theory following the publication of a special issue on the topic in 2007 in the Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal.
The authors performed a systematic review of the relevant literature in selected accounting journals for the 11 year period 2007–2017 inclusive. The authors identified the methods, topics and theories addressed by researchers and the academic journals that are more likely to publish engagement research.
The authors found a significant increase in engagement work over the decade since publication of the special issue and a marked increase in the volume and complexity of data collected in studies. There is a marked difference in the openness of different journals to engagement research and the type of engagement research published across accounting journals. Contrary to the argument made by critics of engagement research the authors found that this field of research not only uses theory, but develops theory.
Through the examination of methods and theories used and topics considered, the authors identify avenues for further research – and the journals likely to be receptive to it.
The study demonstrates that the collective body of engagement research aimed at improving sustainability accounting and performance has significant potential to inform practice and policy developments with the same aim.
The study examines an emerging approach in an emerging field of research with significant academic, practice and policy potential.
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