As a key element of corporate accountability, social and environmental accounting (SEA) has failed to yield significant results in terms of firms embracing goals other than financial profitability. Influenced by the work of critical accountants on dialogic accounting, the study rejects binary frameworks and aims to contribute to an essential element of SEA, stakeholder engagement.
Business concerned with unconventional gas (UCG) extraction was chosen from numerous vehicles suited to examining multiple views on contested issues. The research explores perspectives expressed by community, while also including perspectives of one gas firm. Research is viewed through the lens of critical futures theory and methodology causal layered analysis (CLA) in the analysis of the interviews at the case study site in Australia. In addition, to broaden the understanding of “accountability”, participants captured their own views through images that they interpreted in the interviews. This methodology is known as photovoice.
Findings suggest that CLA enables access to multiple, complex and nuanced perspectives and various ways of knowing, some of which are less conscious.
Accessing multiple perspectives, including marginalized voices, gives rise to the potential to then collaboratively develop a more inclusive set of solutions to critically examine, and the CLA methodology appears to provide a fuller story, address “blindness” and enable a clearer “seeing”. This suggests access to new understandings. These two potentials should be further explored through follow up research.
This practice-based methodology involving civil society could provide SEA accounting practitioners with a greater range of possibilities; they would therefore benefit from incorporating “CLA thinking” as a basis in developing a pluralist, democratic and transformative approach to stakeholder engagement.
The study is an initial contribution in an ambitious task of democratizing accounting and accountability.
The study addresses a gap in accounting and accountability research by applying a critical futures theory and a practice-based method.
The author would like to thank all research participants who generously gave their time and energy in making this research happen. Their honest and rich contributions have been deeply inspiring. The author hopes that the participants consider the outcome of their involvement to be of value to our future.
Holdaway, M. (2018), "Field work in potential gas fields, middle ground or war zone: enhancing accountability by shining a light on difference", Foresight, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 84-104. https://doi.org/10.1108/FS-07-2017-0036
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