The purpose of this paper is to explain how sustainability reporting and stakeholder engagement processes serve as vehicles of dialogic accounting (DA), a form of critical accounting that creates opportunities for stakeholders to express their opinions, and the influence of dialogic interactions on the content of sustainability reports.
Content analysis is used to investigate reports published by 299 companies that have adopted Global Reporting Initiative guidelines. This paper studies how organizations engage stakeholders, the categories of stakeholders that are being addressed, the methods used to support stakeholder engagement, and other features of the stakeholder engagement process. Companies that disclose stakeholder perceptions, the difficulties met in engaging stakeholders, and actions aimed at creating opportunities for different groups of stakeholders to interact were subjects of discussion in a series of semi-structured interviews that focus on DA.
Companies often commit themselves to two-way dialogue with their stakeholders, but fully developed frameworks for DA are rare. However, signs of DA emerged in the analysis, thus confirming that sustainability reporting can become a platform for DA systems if stakeholder engagement is effective.
The findings contribute to the accounting literature by discussing if and how sustainability reporting and stakeholder engagement can serve as vehicles of DA. This is accomplished via a research design that is based on in-depth interviews and content analysis of various sustainability reports.
The authors would like to thank the team of junior researchers that supported data collection and data entry for this study, especially Stefano Alfano, Suela Balili, Giuditta Mattei, Fatjon Rrucaj and Martin Sannuto. Although this study is the result of a team effort, Giacomo Manetti can be considered the author of Sections 1 and 2; Marco Bellucci the author of Sections 3 and 5; Lorenzo Simoni the author of Sections 4.1 and 4.2; and Diletta Acuti the author of Section 4.3.
Bellucci, M., Simoni, L., Acuti, D. and Manetti, G. (2019), "Stakeholder engagement and dialogic accounting: Empirical evidence in sustainability reporting", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 32 No. 5, pp. 1467-1499. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-09-2017-3158
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