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Institutional work in the birth of a carbon accounting profession

Delphine Gibassier (Audencia Business School, Nantes, France)
Sami El Omari (TBS Business School, Toulouse, France)
Philippe Naccache (INSEEC Grande Ecole, INSEEC U, Paris, France)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 9 June 2020

Issue publication date: 8 October 2020




Within the emergent professional field of carbon accounting, we analyse the institutional work that gives birth to a nascent profession in a multi-actor arena. We therefore contribute to enhancing our understanding of the birth of professions – in their very first steps and infancy.


This study employs a qualitative approach. We collected data from 1999 to 2015 and conducted 15 semi-structured interviews. One of the researchers was active in the field for two years and participated in carbon accounting events in France as a “participant observer”.


Our research contributes to an understanding of the dynamic professionalization process in which the different actors mobilize both creative work and sabotage work. We further theorize how nascent professions structure their project around knowledge, identity and boundary work. At the same time, we develop the notion of sabotage work, which is comprised of two sub-categories of institutional work: counter-work and the absence of work.


To our knowledge, this is one of the first attempts to analyse the birth of an environmental accounting profession. We emphasize both creative work and sabotage work in the professionalization project. We conclude on further research that could be performed on environmental accounting professions.



The authors would like to thank Hélène Le Teno for her help during the participant observation period. We would like to thank all those who agreed to be interviewed in relation to the professionalization project of the carbon accounting profession in France. Interviewees do not necessarily endorse our analysis, which is our own responsibility. The authors gratefully acknowledge the help of Carlos Ramirez, Wafa Khlif and Tanya Fiedler. The authors also acknowledge the many helpful comments from AFC, 2015 and IPA 2015 participants, as well as a joint Royal Holloway-Toulouse Business School workshop held in June 2016, and the Ivey Business School's brown bag seminar held in October 2016. We are thankful for the reviewers and editors for their continued support in this research project.


Gibassier, D., El Omari, S. and Naccache, P. (2020), "Institutional work in the birth of a carbon accounting profession", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 33 No. 6, pp. 1447-1476.



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