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Challenges associated with sustainability accounting and reporting practices: a legitimacy perspective

Katariina Juusola (Department of Marketing, Ajman University, Ajman, United Arab Emirates)
Reem Srouji (Department of Public Governance and Sustainable Development, MODUL University Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

International Journal of Law and Management

ISSN: 1754-243X

Article publication date: 1 December 2022

Issue publication date: 2 February 2023




The purpose of this study was to use legitimacy theory to discuss three important aspects of sustainability accounting and reporting practices: the historical building of legitimacy for such practices, how organizations have adhered to them when building organizational legitimacy in a new legitimacy context (the Middle East and North Africa [MENA] region) and how sustainability professionals assess the legitimacy of them in this context.


The study applied an exploratory qualitative design and a paradigm-type approach to organizational discourse analysis. It used a document analysis and eight expert interviews as data sources.


The findings revealed that sustainability accounting and reporting face considerable challenges in the MENA region. Four discourses on organizational sustainability in the region were identified, namely, the normative/pragmatic, compliance, restrictive and performative discourses.

Practical implications

Awareness of the challenges and mechanics of sustainability accounting and reporting practices is important for managers, policymakers and consumers, who typically lack in-depth understanding of such practices and so would benefit from being better able to assess companies’ sustainability performance. The four identified discourses facilitate stakeholders’ understanding of sustainability practices in the MENA region.


The legitimacy of sustainability accounting and reporting has not previously been comprehensively investigated in non-Western contexts. This study discusses three important aspects of legitimacy: legitimacy of an object, legitimacy of a subject and legitimacy from an evaluator’s perspective. In doing so, it identifies the paradoxical nature of organizations’ attempts to comply with sustainability reporting practices.



Juusola, K. and Srouji, R. (2023), "Challenges associated with sustainability accounting and reporting practices: a legitimacy perspective", International Journal of Law and Management, Vol. 65 No. 1, pp. 64-87.



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