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Accountability and governance in pursuit of Sustainable Development Goals: conceptualising how governments create value

Subhash Abhayawansa (Swinburne Business School, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia)
Carol A. Adams (Durham University Business School, Durham University, Durham, UK) (Swinburne Business School, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia)
Cristina Neesham (Newcastle University Business School, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 9 March 2021

Issue publication date: 1 June 2021




Drawing on Adams (2017a) conceptualisation of value creation by organisations published in the Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, the purpose of this paper is to develop a conceptualisation of how national governments can create value for society and the economy through their approach to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


An initial conceptual framework was developed from literature situated at the intersection of accountability, public policy and sustainability/sustainable development. The authors' review of extant research on national policy development on value creation, sustainability and the SDGs identified gaps in (understanding of) approaches to national accountability and national governance (by state and civil society) processes. The subsequent thematic analysis of 164 written submissions made to the Australian Senate inquiry on the SDGs between December 2017 and March 2018, together with transcripts of five public hearings where 49 individuals and organisations appeared as witnesses during the second half of 2018, focussed on addressing these gaps.


Input to the Australian Senate Inquiry on the SDGs overwhelmingly emphasised the importance of transparency and stakeholder participation in accountability systems, commenting on data gathering, measuring and communicating. There was an emphasis on the need to involve all parts of society, including business, investors and civil society, and for strong central co-ordination by the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. These data allowed the authors to refine the conceptualisation of how national governments can enhance social and economic value through a focus on the UN SDGs and their approach to accounting, accountability and governance.

Practical implications

The findings have implications: for national governments in developing approaches to achieve sustainable development; and, for supranational bodies such as the UN in developing agreements, frameworks and guidance for national governments.


Building on the extant literature about how global governance should be engaged to improve accountability in achieving the SDGs, the conceptual framework developed through the study shifts focus to national governance and accountability, and provides a blueprint for national governments to create value for the economy and society in the face of global sustainable development issues.



Abhayawansa, S., Adams, C.A. and Neesham, C. (2021), "Accountability and governance in pursuit of Sustainable Development Goals: conceptualising how governments create value", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 34 No. 4, pp. 923-945.



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