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The diffusion of sustainability key performance indicators in a developing country context

Prabanga Thoradeniya (Monash Business School, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)
Aldónio Ferreira (Monash Business School, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)
Janet Lee (Research School of Accounting, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)
Rebecca Tan (Research School of Accounting, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 10 November 2020

Issue publication date: 7 June 2021

937

Abstract

Purpose

Drawing upon Abrahamson's (1991) typology of innovation diffusion, this study aims to investigate the factors underpinning diffusion of sustainability key performance indicators (SKPIs) in a developing country.

Design/methodology/approach

A qualitative study was conducted in Sri Lanka involving semi-structured interviews with managers, as users of SKPIs (demand-side), and both consultants and academics, as agents in diffusion process (supply-side).

Findings

Diffusion of SKPIs was found to be driven by efficient-choice considerations, with fashion motives intertwined with these. The diffusion was influenced by developing country context issues relating to market competition, education, government and culture. It was somewhat surprising that market forces played a key role to the extent they did. Minimal stakeholder pressure was found to undermine the diffusion process, contrasting with developed countries in which key stakeholders act as catalysts. The developing country context appears to slow down the pace, rather than alter the pattern, of diffusion of SKPIs.

Research limitations/implications

This study is limited by its focus on SKPI adopters, which does not permit to draw insights regarding motivations of non-adopters.

Originality/value

This study draws upon Abrahamson's typology to explore the diffusion of SKPIs in the poorly understood developing country context. The findings provide insights into driving forces behind diffusion of SKPIs, suggesting the developing country context creates “stickiness” that influences pace rather than the pattern of diffusion of SKPIs.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful for comments on earlier versions of the paper from the reviewers and participants at the 2019 Asia–Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting (APIRA) conference in Auckland, New Zealand, and the 2019 Accounting and Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand (AFAANZ) conference in Brisbane, Australia. Thank you also to the editors and anonymous reviewers of Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal.

Citation

Thoradeniya, P., Ferreira, A., Lee, J. and Tan, R. (2021), "The diffusion of sustainability key performance indicators in a developing country context", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 34 No. 5, pp. 1246-1274. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-07-2019-4106

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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