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Book part
Publication date: 10 December 2013

Stefan Schaltegger and Dimitar Zvezdov

Accountants’ involvement in environmental and sustainability management has merely been investigated to date. With the continuous take-up of sustainability issues by…

Abstract

Purpose

Accountants’ involvement in environmental and sustainability management has merely been investigated to date. With the continuous take-up of sustainability issues by companies and with the growing experience companies gain in dealing with this topic, this chapter raises the question whether accountants are involved in a way different than previously reported and if yes, what their role is in social accounting practice.

Methodology

Based on 58 interviews with corporate practitioners, this chapter firstly explores the roles involved in the social accounting practice in companies which are considered to be leading in sustainability reporting in the United Kingdom and Germany. Secondly, the role of professional accountants is analysed from a power theory perspective.

Findings

The main findings suggest that professional accountants are partially involved in social accounting practice but mainly exert a gatekeeping role between sustainability managers and higher management.

Practical implications

Investigating the observed behaviour empirically can help improve social accounting. Should it turn out that the accountants have no other option but to act like gatekeepers, accounting education will play a major role in overcoming this deficiency in the pursuit of improved sustainability knowledge and performance. If, on the other hand, it is the defensive stance of accounting professionals and the fear of losing power in corporate structures which motivates them to act as gatekeepers, mechanisms to motivate them to cooperate should be researched.

Value of chapter

The chapter empirically investigates and discusses the accountant’s contribution to sustainability information management. This can help overcome organisational challenges impeding companies to successfully implement sustainability measures.

Details

Accounting and Control for Sustainability
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78052-766-6

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Article
Publication date: 22 February 2021

Belinda Williams, Sumit Lodhia, Mitali Panchal Arora and Lisa McManus

With an increased focus on the need for higher levels of accountability and transparency in the public sector, this study aims to provide insights into non-financial…

Abstract

Purpose

With an increased focus on the need for higher levels of accountability and transparency in the public sector, this study aims to provide insights into non-financial reporting (NFR) practices as a mechanism in facilitating accountability. This study also aims to investigate the changing role of the public sector accountant in this process, specifically focusing on the Australian local government sector.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors used a mail survey across two time periods, 2009 and 2017, to analyse the role of accountants in NFR practices. Institutional theory provides a theoretical framing for the study.

Findings

The findings reveal an increase in the use of accountants across time in the preparation of voluntary information, being used in a variety of roles because of their financial abilities and analytical skills. The results also indicate a shift has occurred with more emphasis being placed on cross-departmental approaches to NFP incorporating the accountant. These results suggest a greater recognition of the role of accountants in NFR and a dilution of accountant’s boundaries in relation to their existing traditional focus.

Research limitations/implications

This study contributes to the academic NFR literature by providing evidence of an institutional shift that is occurring with the accountant’s role widening to a broader context beyond their traditional roles.

Practical implications

This longitudinal study provides practical evidence to management of the potential offered by accountants as the public sector seeks to achieve higher levels of accountability and transparency. Policy implications also arise in relation to the need for development of quality assurance guidelines and further education and training as the public sector embarks on the journey of NFR.

Originality/value

To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this study is the first that has explored the evolution of NFR over a period of time through its focus on the role of accountants.

Details

Managerial Auditing Journal, vol. 36 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0268-6902

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Article
Publication date: 7 September 2015

Stefan Schaltegger and Dimitar Zvezdov

This paper aims to, with the continuous take-up of sustainability issues by companies and with the growing experience companies gain in dealing with this topic, raise the…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to, with the continuous take-up of sustainability issues by companies and with the growing experience companies gain in dealing with this topic, raise the question of whether accountants are involved in the corporate practice of managing sustainability information, and if yes, what their role is. The actual involvement of accountants in corporate environmental and sustainability management has merely been investigated to date.

Design/methodology/approach

Based on 58 in-depth interviews with corporate practitioners, this paper, first, explores the roles in the sustainability accounting practice in companies which are considered to be leading in sustainability reporting in the UK and Germany. Second, the role of accountants is analysed from a power theory perspective.

Findings

The main findings suggest that accountants are partially involved in sustainability accounting practice but mainly exert a gate-keeping role between sustainability managers and higher management. The findings raise questions of how to better involve accountants in earlier steps of the sustainability management accounting process.

Research limitations/implications

The explorative research is based on interviews in European companies considered to be among the leaders in sustainability reporting.

Practical implications

Empirically investigating the role of accountants can help improve sustainability accounting practice and education. Should it turn out that the accountants have no other option but to act as gatekeepers, accounting education will play a major role in overcoming this deficiency in the pursuit of improved sustainability knowledge and performance. If, on the other hand, it is the defensive stance of accountants and the fear of losing power in corporate structures which motivates them to act as gatekeepers, mechanisms to motivate them to cooperate should be researched.

Social implications

The paper empirically investigates and discusses the accountant’s contribution to sustainability information management. This can help overcome organisational challenges impeding companies to successfully implement sustainability measures.

Originality/value

The paper investigates and discusses the accountant’s contribution to sustainability information management. The empirical analysis is based on a framework to identify different roles in sustainability accounting. Two possible development paths for a stronger constructive involvement of accountants are identified – to improve sustainability education for accountants if lack of sustainability knowledge is a major obstacle, and/or to improve incentives and structures motivating accountants to contribute with their information management expertise on all steps of the sustainability accounting process.

Details

Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change, vol. 11 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1832-5912

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Article
Publication date: 16 October 2017

Lee D. Parker and Samantha Warren

The purpose of this paper is to explore the intersection of professional values and career roles in accountants’ presentations of their professional identity, in the face…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the intersection of professional values and career roles in accountants’ presentations of their professional identity, in the face of enduring stereotyping of the accounting role.

Design/methodology/approach

This study presents a qualitative investigation of accountants’ construction of their professional identities and imagery using a Goffmanian dramaturgical perspective. Viewing professional identity construction as a presentational matter of impression management, the investigation employs a reflexive photo-interviewing methodology.

Findings

Accountants use a variety of workplace dramatisation, idealisation and mystification strategies inside and outside the workplace to counter the traditional accounting stereotype. They also attempt to develop a professional identity that is a subset of their overall life values.

Research limitations/implications

Their professional orientation is found to embrace role reconstruction and revised image mystification while not necessarily aiming for upward professional mobility. This has implications for understanding the career trajectories of contemporary accountants with associated implications for continuing professional development and education.

Originality/value

The paper focusses on professional role, identity, values and image at the individual accountant level, while most prior research has focussed upon these issues at the macro association-wide level. In offering the first use of reflexive photo-interviewing method in the accounting research literature, it brings the prospect of having elicited different and possibly more reflective observations, reflections and understandings from actors not otherwise possible from more conventional methods.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 30 no. 8
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 12 November 2018

Rafael Heinzelmann

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the impact of IT systems on occupational identities of management accountants. The author highlights the pivotal role of the IT…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the impact of IT systems on occupational identities of management accountants. The author highlights the pivotal role of the IT system as a central reference point for organisational identity regulation and identity work.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper is based on a qualitative case study approach.

Findings

The IT system presents the central means of establishing appropriate behaviour in case organisation (“identity regulation”). At the same time, the IT system acts as a sense-giving device (“identity work”) – the central reference point for management accountants to make sense of their work. In addition, the system creates more dirty and unclean work (Morales and Lambert, 2013), producing dissonance between the business partner role and the organisational reality, which is resolved by relating dirty and unclean work through use of the SAP Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.

Research limitations/implications

The paper suggests to understand IT systems as an important driver of the management accounting work shaping the occupational identity of management accountants.

Practical implications

The author aims to sensitise practitioners and organisations to the potential risks of relying too strongly on IT systems – a behaviour which can limit the professional judgement and business insight of management accountants.

Originality/value

The author contributes to the discussion on how technological disruptions, e.g. ERP implementation, Big Data, business analytics, digitalisation, change management accountants’ identity and management accounting work. The author shows how organisations establish appropriate behaviour and how management accountants make sense upon dissonances between the professional ideals exemplified by business partner role and the organisational realities.

Details

Journal of Applied Accounting Research, vol. 19 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0967-5426

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Article
Publication date: 8 April 2014

Vinal Mistry, Umesh Sharma and Mary Low

– The purpose of this paper is to examine the perceptions that management accountants have of their roles in accounting for sustainable development in their organisations.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the perceptions that management accountants have of their roles in accounting for sustainable development in their organisations.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper draws arguments from prior literature to identify the roles that management accountants play in accounting for sustainable development. Management accountants' perceptions of their roles in accounting for sustainable development are examined by conducting interviews and surveys of management accountants from various organisations in New Zealand. The study is informed by legitimacy theory.

Findings

Management accountants of small-medium organisations in New Zealand play a limited role in accounting for sustainable development, compared to management accountants of larger organisations. The correlation between the type of organisation and their overall goals for achieving sustainable development are closely linked with the roles the organisations' management accountants play in accounting for sustainable development.

Research limitations/implications

This research is limited as it is only an exploratory study with a small sample of small-medium and large businesses in New Zealand. There is a need for greater acceptance by senior management of the role management accountants could play in accounting for sustainable development.

Practical implications

This paper may help management accountants, of both small-medium and larger organisations, to advance accounting for sustainable development within their organisations by actively engaging with the issues that have deterred such advancement.

Originality/value

This paper provides a review of the current debates and positions of accounting for sustainable development as well as the barriers management accountants face in getting engaged in accounting for sustainable development initiatives.

Details

Pacific Accounting Review, vol. 26 no. 1/2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0114-0582

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Article
Publication date: 3 August 2015

Heba El-Sayed and Mayada Abd El-Aziz Youssef

This paper aims to, using the concept of “modes of mediation”, examine how different roles for accountants are “made present” in an Egyptian manufacturing company. The…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to, using the concept of “modes of mediation”, examine how different roles for accountants are “made present” in an Egyptian manufacturing company. The paper introduces the notion of “modes of mediation” as a different perspective for the opposing popular archetypes of accountants: “bean-counter” versus “business partner”. Modes of mediation emphasise the materiality of artefacts, entities and technologies, as well as organisational space and spatial settings.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper draws on a field study in an Egyptian manufacturing company where accountants are engaged as business partners and involved in operations planning and decision-making. The data were collected over a period of four years through participant observation, interviews and ethnographic techniques.

Findings

The paper reveals the relational nature of accountants’ calculative agency and shows how roles of accountants are intimately associated with a web of technologies and artefacts, as well as spatial working arrangements that represent particular “modes of mediation”.

Research limitations/implications

The concept of “modes of mediation”, which is still under-explored in the role change literature, is useful in studying the roles of accountants. It enriches our understanding of the wider involvement of accountants in business decision-making that goes beyond the major drivers of role change and deliberate interventions discussed in the existing literature.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to the literature on role change by drawing attention to the way in which different modes of mediation, involving certain material and spatial arrangements, enact different forms of calculative agency. Minor alteration to these arrangements can result in a wider involvement of accountants in business decision-making.

Details

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, vol. 12 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1176-6093

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Article
Publication date: 22 August 2018

Lyn Daff and Lisa Jack

The purpose of this paper is to provide insights into the importance of accountants’ networks inside organisations, the parties who comprise those networks and how…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to provide insights into the importance of accountants’ networks inside organisations, the parties who comprise those networks and how accountants go about building and maintaining their networks. It also illustrates the use of strong structuration theory, which specifically considers the networks that surround agents. The theoretical discussion highlights the significance of communication as agency in the context of accounting practice through a strong structuration perspective.

Design/methodology/approach

A qualitative approach to the inquiry was adopted. Interviews were conducted with 30 Australian accountants from 22 not-for-profit organisations. A thematic approach was used to analyse the transcripts. Structuration theory, supplemented by strong structuration, informed the study.

Findings

The interviewees attested to the importance of communication and developing networks within their organisations. They actively sought to expand and enhance their networks. The accountants played a pivotal role in networks and they pursued both horizontal and vertical relations. The accountants’ knowledge of organisational positions and perceptions of their own roles were used strategically in attempts to alter the internal structures of networked others.

Research limitations/implications

The interviewed accountants worked in not-for-profit organisations and this may influence the findings. Future research might consider accountants working in for-profit organisations. The study provides insights into strategies to develop intra-organisational networks.

Originality/value

The study contributes to the meagre literature regarding accountants’ networks within organisations. It provides insights that may assist accountants in enhancing their own networks. Although structuration theory is well-established in accounting research, the enrichments offered by strong structuration are illustrated in this study.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 31 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 1 July 2005

Sujatha Perera, Jill McKinnon and Graeme Harrison

This paper uses a stakeholder approach to examine how the role of accounting and the status of accountants changed over a 30 year period (1970 to 2000) in a major…

Abstract

This paper uses a stakeholder approach to examine how the role of accounting and the status of accountants changed over a 30 year period (1970 to 2000) in a major Australian government trading enterprise. Data are gathered from semi‐structured interviews with organizational participants and documentation. The study provides support for the importance of stakeholders in shaping organizational processes and practices, including accounting practices, and for the effects of changes in stakeholder constituency and agenda on such practices. The study also provides evidence of the roles accounting and accountants may play in implementing a stakeholder agenda, including both instrumental and symbolic roles, and how the status of accountants may rise and fall commensurate with those roles.

Details

Pacific Accounting Review, vol. 17 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0114-0582

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Article
Publication date: 22 July 2021

Mitali Panchal Arora, Sumit Lodhia and Gerard Stone

With the increasing adoption of integrated reporting and the subsequent interest of the accounting discipline in its development, this paper aims to examine the enablers…

Abstract

Purpose

With the increasing adoption of integrated reporting and the subsequent interest of the accounting discipline in its development, this paper aims to examine the enablers and barriers to the involvement of accountants in integrated reporting.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper adopts a case study approach by collecting interview data from six organisations that have adopted integrated reporting internationally. In the selected organisations, face-to-face and telephone interviews were conducted with professionals who are involved in the preparation of an integrated report. The interviewees in this study included key integrated report preparers including accountants, corporate reporting managers, sustainability managers and other report preparers. Institutional entrepreneurship provided the theoretical insights for this study.

Findings

The study found that accountants’ expertise in corporate reporting and especially their knowledge of the assurance process was one of the major reasons why they were involved in integrated reporting. Accountants’ in-depth understanding of an organisation in addition to their general analytical and interpersonal skills were also found to be useful in preparing an integrated report. However, the voluntary nature of integrated reporting along with the lack of sufficient guidelines deterred accountants from being involved in integrated reporting. The study also found that accountants themselves did not see value in integrated reporting and found it challenging to convert numerical information to narratives, thus limiting their involvement in integrated reporting.

Research limitations/implications

Whilst prior studies have underlined accountants’ institutionalised practices, this study uncovers the strategies applied by accountants to maintain their institutionalised practices. The specific application of the institutional entrepreneurship concept identifies mechanisms and strategies through which accountants restrict their practices to narrow taken-for-granted roles.

Practical implications

This study uncovers practical implications by highlighting the factors that limit the involvement of accountants within integrated reporting. One of the major implications identified relates to the training of accountants to apply their existing skills and expertise in non-financial reporting to contribute effectively to multi-disciplinary teams that contribute towards integrated reporting in organisations. This study also provides an impetus for the International Integrated Reporting Council to provide more guidance for preparing an integrated report.

Originality/value

This is one of the initial studies that has explored the enablers and barriers to the involvement of accountants in integrated reporting through its focus on organisations that are already practising this form of reporting. The use of institutional entrepreneurship theory adds to the theoretical insights for exploring the involvement of the various actors in integrated reporting.

Details

Meditari Accountancy Research, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2049-372X

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