This study aims to contribute to the relatively limited historic literature on social and environmental accounting/accountability. More specifically, the study explores accounting and accountability for fisheries over time and determines potential legitimacy relations as conveyed through reporting.
A content analysis method is used to analyse a fisheries-related section of an annual report of a state-owned electricity firm for 56 years (1935/36–1993). The time frame analysed is a period when environmental or social reporting was, in general, informal and not mandated. However, accountability was established for the company under study, through the legally mandated provision of (unspecific/discretional) information about fisheries activities. A lens evoking legitimacy relationships as a dyad is utilised.
The fisheries reporting within the case organisation is an early example of recognition of the important effects of business activities on the environment and biodiversity. The findings of the analyses suggest the content aligns with what may be anticipated in a contemporary setting. Drawing on trends noted from the content analysis, three potential legitimacy relationships are identified around the fisheries reporting. Only one is determined as a complete legitimacy relationship.
The research is limited in that it is an analysis of one case in a single context. Also, the content analysis methods used were developed specifically for the study, which may limit their application. Finally, the data source used, and the historic nature of the study, to some extent limits the ability to determine some legitimacy relationships.
This study offers some insights on the historic nature of environmental reporting from a fisheries perspective in the Northern Hemisphere. The longitudinal nature of the analysis also offers insights into how the content of the reporting changed over time. Additionally, the use of a relatively new approach to operationalising legitimacy may prove useful for future researchers in the accounting discipline, especially given recent concerns on how the concept of legitimacy has been utilised in such research.
The authors would like to acknowledge the assistance of staff at the ESB Archives (see esbarchives.ie) and the helpful comments of the anonymous reviewers and the Editors.
Quinn, M., Moreno, A. and Bhatta, B. (2022), "Accountability and accounting for fisheries – six decades of reporting by the Electricity Supply Board of Ireland, 1935–1993", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-12-2021-5573
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