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Into the woods of corporate fairytales and environmental reporting

Leanne J. Morrison (Department of Accounting, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Alan Lowe (RMIT Business and Human Rights Centre, Melbourne, Australia)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 12 March 2021

Issue publication date: 1 June 2021




Using a dialogic approach to narrative analysis through the lens of fairytale, this paper explores the shared construction of corporate environmental stories. The analysis provided aims to reveal the narrative messaging which is implicit in corporate reporting, to contrast corporate and stakeholder narratives and to bring attention to the ubiquity of storytelling in corporate communications.


This paper examines a series of events in which a single case company plays the central role. The environmental section of the case company's sustainability report is examined through the lens of fairytale analysis. Next, two counter accounts are constructed which foreground multiple stakeholder accounts and retold as fairytales.


The dialogic nature of accounts plays a critical role in how stakeholders understand the environmental impacts of a company. Storytelling mechanisms have been used to shape the perspective and sympathies of the report reader in favour of the company. We use these same mechanisms to create two collective counter accounts which display different sympathies.

Research limitations/implications

This research reveals how the narrative nature of corporate reports may be used to fabricate a particular perspective through storytelling. By doing so, it challenges the authority of the version of events provided by the company and gives voice to collective counter accounts which are shared by and can be disseminated to other stakeholders.


This paper provides a unique perspective to understanding corporate environmental reporting and the stories shared by and with external stakeholders by drawing from a novel link between fairytale, storytelling and counter accounting.



Morrison, L.J. and Lowe, A. (2021), "Into the woods of corporate fairytales and environmental reporting", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 34 No. 4, pp. 819-848.



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