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The implementation of sustainability reporting in a small and medium enterprise and the emergence of integrated thinking

Adriana Rossi (Department of Business and Administration, LUISS Guido Carli, Rome, Italy)
Mercedes Luque-Vílchez (Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Policy, Universidad de Cordoba, Cordoba, Spain)

Meditari Accountancy Research

ISSN: 2049-372X

Article publication date: 11 August 2020

Issue publication date: 19 August 2021




This study aims to examine the process through which sustainability is integrated into the organizational practices of accounting.


Action research, drawing on the lens of neo-institutional theory, is used to explore the integration process of sustainability in an Italian company.


The results show how different factors and organizational dynamics contribute to the initiation of both sustainability reporting and the progressive diffusion of sustainability practices in this organization, within the small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) category. In addition, signs of integrated thinking were identified while charting the process of sustainability reporting and its institutionalization within the company.

Research limitations/implications

The study shows that the idea of integrated thinking was rooted in organizational culture prior to the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) framework and the momentum it gave to integrated reporting. In this sense, this research provides evidence to confirm the existence of an alternate narrative in relation to the one offered by the IIRC framework.

Practical implications

The present study contributes to understanding how SMEs can integrate sustainability into their accounting systems. Managers working in these organizations may learn from this experience.


On the one hand, this study further the knowledge of sustainability integration processes within an organizational practice, especially in the case of SMEs. On the other hand, the study is, perhaps, the first to identify signs of integrated thinking on the journey through the sustainability institutionalization process.



Rossi, A. and Luque-Vílchez, M. (2021), "The implementation of sustainability reporting in a small and medium enterprise and the emergence of integrated thinking", Meditari Accountancy Research, Vol. 29 No. 4, pp. 966-984.



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