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Institutional logics and practice variations in sustainability reporting: evidence from an emerging field

Zeeshan Mahmood (Department of Commerce, Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan, Pakistan)
Shahzad Uddin (Essex Business School, University of Essex, Colchester, UK)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 2 December 2020

Issue publication date: 7 June 2021

1553

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to deepen the understanding of logics and practice variation in sustainability reporting in an emerging field.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper adopts the institutional logics perspective and its conceptualization of society as an inter-institutional system as a theoretical lens to understand reasons for the presence of and variation in sustainability reporting. The empirical findings are based on analysis of 28 semi-structured interviews with significant social actors, and extensive documentary evidence focusing on eight companies pioneering sustainability reporting in Pakistan.

Findings

This paper confirms the presence of multiple co-existing logics in sustainability practices and lack of a dominant logic. Sustainability reporting practices are underpinned by a combination of market and corporate (business logics), state (regulatory logics), professional (transparency logics) and community (responsibility logics) institutional orders. It is argued that institutional heterogeneity (variations in logics) drives the diversity of motivations for and variations in sustainability reporting practices.

Research limitations/implications

The paper offers a deeper theoretical explanation of how various logics dominate sustainability reporting in a field where the institutionalization of practice is in its infancy.

Practical implications

Understanding the conditions that influence the logics of corporate decision-makers will provide new insights into what motivates firms to engage in sustainability reporting. A broader understanding of sustainability reporting in emerging fields will foster its intended use to increase transparency, accountability and sustainability performance.

Originality/value

This paper contributes to relatively scarce but growing empirical research on emerging fields. Its major contribution lies in its focus on how multiple and conflicting institutional logics are instantiated at the organizational level, leading to wide practice variations, especially in an emerging field. In doing so, it advances the institutional logics debate on practice variations within the accounting literature.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge cooperation extended by the participants of this study. The authors are grateful for comments on earlier versions of the paper from the reviewers, discussant and participants at the 2018 Accounting and Accountability in Emerging Economies (AAEE) conference in Essex, UK. The first author is grateful to the Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) of Pakistan for providing International Travel Grant (ITG) for attending AAEE 2018 conference in Essex, UK. Thank you also to the editors and anonymous reviewers of Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal for their constructive comments and suggestions.

Citation

Mahmood, Z. and Uddin, S. (2021), "Institutional logics and practice variations in sustainability reporting: evidence from an emerging field", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 34 No. 5, pp. 1163-1189. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-07-2019-4086

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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