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Stakeholder engagement in sustainability accounting and reporting: A study of Australian local councils

Amanpreet Kaur (University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia)
Sumit Lodhia (University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 15 January 2018

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine how stakeholders are engaged in the sustainability accounting and reporting processes of Australian local councils.

Design/methodology/approach

Managerial stakeholder theory through the use of the notion of stakeholder salience provides a theoretical basis for exploring stakeholder engagement in the sustainability accounting and reporting process. Case study research was used to explore the stakeholder engagement practices of three Australian local councils. Data collection methods included interviews and document analysis.

Findings

The findings of this research identified the importance of stakeholder engagement in the entire sustainability accounting and reporting process, the development of strategic plans and sustainability indicators, the measurement of sustainability performance and the preparation of sustainability reports.

Research limitations/implications

This study, by integrating the sustainability accounting and reporting literature with the stakeholder salience concepts of power, legitimacy, urgency and proximity, illustrates the critical role of stakeholder engagement in the sustainability accounting and reporting process of three local councils.

Practical implications

This study has implications for public sector organisations (PSOs) and their stakeholders in relation to stakeholder engagement in sustainability accounting and reporting. The findings of this study will also be useful to corporations in understanding the importance of stakeholder engagement in sustainability accounting and reporting.

Social implications

The public sector is expected to be a leader in sustainability and this paper provides evidence of three councils who through their stakeholder engagement provide exemplars of useful practices that could be adopted by other entities.

Originality/value

Prior research in PSOs has primarily focused on the sustainability accounting and reporting process but has given limited consideration to the involvement of stakeholders. The focus on stakeholder engagement through the use of managerial stakeholder theory extends the role of stakeholders from merely being an audience for sustainability reports to an influential contributor in the sustainability accounting and reporting process.

Keywords

Citation

Kaur, A. and Lodhia, S. (2018), "Stakeholder engagement in sustainability accounting and reporting: A study of Australian local councils", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 31 No. 1, pp. 338-368. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-12-2014-1901

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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