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Article
Publication date: 17 May 2022

Carol A. Adams and Frank Mueller

This paper aims to examine the nature of academic engagement with policy and the (lack of) responsiveness by policymakers to the scientific community through the…

1557

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to examine the nature of academic engagement with policy and the (lack of) responsiveness by policymakers to the scientific community through the development of the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation Trustees’ Consultation Paper on Sustainability Reporting (IFRS Foundation, 2020).

Design/methodology/approach

The 577 submissions to the IFRS Foundation consultation were reviewed, and 39 were identified as being submitted by academics. These 39 included collectively 104 academic signatories from 74 organisations or networks and 20 countries. They were analysed using NVivo. Drawing on the literature on techniques used to discredit or credit arguments, we examine the academic responses to the consultation questions, particularly those concerning: the role of the IFRS Foundation; perceptions of the “investor perspective”; the audience for reporting; the definition of materiality; and a climate first approach.

Findings

The majority (72%) of academic submissions were opposed to the IFRS Foundation Trustees’ proposals on key issues. This dissenting majority collectively have substantial research records in sustainability reporting and its outcomes. Those supportive were significantly less likely to reference research or state their credentials and, despite being supportive, nevertheless raised concerns with the proposals.

Practical implications

Senior academics undertaking research in the field have engaged, in unusually high numbers, with a policy development they believe will not work and maybe counter to achieving sustainable development. The findings underscore the importance of highlighting the discrediting strategies and tactics used in this discursive “battle”. The findings have implications for the legitimacy of policymakers on sustainability-related initiatives which are not engaging with the relevant scientific community.

Social implications

Policy initiatives that are judged as potentially harmful to sustainable development attract more intense, activist and sustained engagement supported by research evidence.

Originality/value

The paper identifies the importance of evidence-based academic engagement and highlights strategies that engaging academics need to persist over. It highlights the collective view of academics in the field on the IFRS Foundation consultation paper.

Details

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2040-8021

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 9 March 2021

Subhash Abhayawansa, Carol A. Adams and Cristina Neesham

Drawing on Adams (2017a) conceptualisation of value creation by organisations published in the Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, the purpose of this paper…

1927

Abstract

Purpose

Drawing on Adams (2017a) conceptualisation of value creation by organisations published in the Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, the purpose of this paper is to develop a conceptualisation of how national governments can create value for society and the economy through their approach to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Design/methodology/approach

An initial conceptual framework was developed from literature situated at the intersection of accountability, public policy and sustainability/sustainable development. The authors' review of extant research on national policy development on value creation, sustainability and the SDGs identified gaps in (understanding of) approaches to national accountability and national governance (by state and civil society) processes. The subsequent thematic analysis of 164 written submissions made to the Australian Senate inquiry on the SDGs between December 2017 and March 2018, together with transcripts of five public hearings where 49 individuals and organisations appeared as witnesses during the second half of 2018, focussed on addressing these gaps.

Findings

Input to the Australian Senate Inquiry on the SDGs overwhelmingly emphasised the importance of transparency and stakeholder participation in accountability systems, commenting on data gathering, measuring and communicating. There was an emphasis on the need to involve all parts of society, including business, investors and civil society, and for strong central co-ordination by the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. These data allowed the authors to refine the conceptualisation of how national governments can enhance social and economic value through a focus on the UN SDGs and their approach to accounting, accountability and governance.

Practical implications

The findings have implications: for national governments in developing approaches to achieve sustainable development; and, for supranational bodies such as the UN in developing agreements, frameworks and guidance for national governments.

Originality/value

Building on the extant literature about how global governance should be engaged to improve accountability in achieving the SDGs, the conceptual framework developed through the study shifts focus to national governance and accountability, and provides a blueprint for national governments to create value for the economy and society in the face of global sustainable development issues.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 34 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 24 June 2019

Carol A. Adams and Carlos Larrinaga

The purpose of this paper is to review the development of engagement research in pursuit of improved sustainability accounting and performance and to identify issues in…

2547

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to review the development of engagement research in pursuit of improved sustainability accounting and performance and to identify issues in the further development of this field. In particular, the authors consider the implications of this research for practice, policy and theory following the publication of a special issue on the topic in 2007 in the Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors performed a systematic review of the relevant literature in selected accounting journals for the 11 year period 2007–2017 inclusive. The authors identified the methods, topics and theories addressed by researchers and the academic journals that are more likely to publish engagement research.

Findings

The authors found a significant increase in engagement work over the decade since publication of the special issue and a marked increase in the volume and complexity of data collected in studies. There is a marked difference in the openness of different journals to engagement research and the type of engagement research published across accounting journals. Contrary to the argument made by critics of engagement research the authors found that this field of research not only uses theory, but develops theory.

Research limitations/implications

Through the examination of methods and theories used and topics considered, the authors identify avenues for further research – and the journals likely to be receptive to it.

Practical implications

The study demonstrates that the collective body of engagement research aimed at improving sustainability accounting and performance has significant potential to inform practice and policy developments with the same aim.

Originality/value

The study examines an emerging approach in an emerging field of research with significant academic, practice and policy potential.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 32 no. 8
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 15 May 2017

Carol A. Adams

The purpose of this paper is to examine and explain the complex interrelationships which influence the ability of firms to create value for their providers of finance and…

4294

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine and explain the complex interrelationships which influence the ability of firms to create value for their providers of finance and other stakeholders (loosely referred to in practice as “integrated thinking”). In doing so it examines the interrelationships between: environmental, social and governance (ESG) risk; delivering on corporate strategy; non-financial corporate reporting; and, board oversight.

Design/methodology/approach

Interviews were conducted with board chairs and non-executive directors of large listed companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (where Boards are required to have a social and ethics sub-committee and approve integrated reports which have been mandatory since 2010) and the Australian Stock Exchange (where Board directors’ liability legislation results in Boards being reluctant to adopt integrated reporting which is voluntary).

Findings

The research finds that contemporary reporting processes, and in particular those set out in the King III Code and the International Integrated Reporting Framework, influence cognitive frames enhancing board oversight and assisting organisations in managing complexity. This results in increased awareness of the impact of ESG issues together with a broader view of value creation despite investor disinterest.

Research limitations/implications

A number of avenues of research are suggested to further examine the interrelationships identified.

Practical implications

The research assists the development of practice and policy by articulating and enhancing the understanding of linkages, which loosely fall under the vague practitioner term “integrated thinking”.

Social implications

The conceptualisation can inform national and global discussions on the appropriateness of corporate reporting and governance models to achieve sustainable development and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Originality/value

The paper conceptualises emerging and complex interrelationships. The cross-country comparison allows an assessment of the extent to which different national social contexts with differing governance and reporting frameworks lead to different perspectives on, and approaches to, value creation.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 30 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 12 June 2007

Carol A. Adams and Carlos Larrinaga‐González

The purpose of this paper is to present a case for research in ethical, social and environmental (or sustainability) accounting and accountability which engages with those…

15102

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present a case for research in ethical, social and environmental (or sustainability) accounting and accountability which engages with those organisations claiming to manage and report their sustainability performance. In addition, the paper reviews the contributions in this special issue.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper provides an analysis and critique of the extent of engagement research in the field of sustainability accounting and accountability. It draws on the fields of management, management accounting and critical accounting to present a case for further research engagement with sustainability accounting and accountability practice.

Findings

The paper finds that the extant literature in the field of sustainability accounting and reporting, in contrast to the fields of management accounting and management, has largely ignored practice within organisations. The lack of “engaging research” is found to be due to concerns about increasing the breadth of participants in the social accounting agenda and “managerial capture”. The paper argues that further research engaging with organisations is needed in order to identify how accounting and management systems might reduce their negative sustainability impacts. The paper argues that such research can benefit from the methodological and theoretical insights of other disciplines.

Research limitations/implications

The paper suggests where further contributions might be made by future research endeavours engaging with organisations.

Practical implications

Engagement research in sustainability accounting and reporting has the potential to improve theorizing, practice and the sustainability performance of organisations.

Originality/value

Drawing on the methods and theories of other disciplines and the papers in the special issue, the paper presents a way forward for researchers engaging with organisations practicing sustainability accounting and reporting.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 20 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Content available
Article
Publication date: 6 November 2017

Carol A. Adams

319

Abstract

Details

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, vol. 8 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2040-8021

Article
Publication date: 29 October 2019

Tom Tyson and Carol A. Adams

Theorizing in the extant sustainability assurance literature is limited. This paper aims to identify apposite organizational theories from related fields which scholars…

Abstract

Purpose

Theorizing in the extant sustainability assurance literature is limited. This paper aims to identify apposite organizational theories from related fields which scholars could apply to sustainability assurance research. Through the introduction of theoretical perspectives new to the field, the authors seek to extend current research.

Design/methodology/approach

A literature review was undertaken and papers using theory to examine research questions concerned with sustainability assurance and business sustainability issues more broadly were categorized by theory and sub area of focus. The authors then considered how organizational theories used in other areas of business sustainability research might augment the current paucity of theorizing applied in sustainability assurance research, thereby opening up new research possibilities.

Findings

The review identified gaps in current theorizing in sustainability assurance research and theoretical frameworks which have the potential to augment research avenues in sustainability assurance, enhance the way researchers interpret their data and increase the understanding of sustainability assurance decisions.

Practical implications

Innovation in sustainability assurance research may lead to developments in sustainability assurance practice, which enhances the credibility of sustainability reports. It will inform ongoing debate regarding whether sustainability assurance should be mandatory, whether a specific reporting format and level of assurance should be prescribed, how the practice can be developed and whether alternatives to enhancing the credibility of sustainability reports need to be found.

Social implications

Enhanced theorizing may shed light on whether sustainability assurance enhances the credibility of sustainability disclosures and whether it leads, or fails to lead, to real improvements in preparers' sustainability-related practices.

Originality/value

By identifying theories which could be applied to sustainability assurance research, this paper facilitates the development of new avenues of research and new ways of interpreting data from the field.

Details

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, vol. 11 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2040-8021

Keywords

Content available
Article
Publication date: 6 June 2019

Carol A. Adams

785

Abstract

Details

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, vol. 10 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2040-8021

Article
Publication date: 31 May 2019

Mohammad Imtiaz Ferdous, Carol A. Adams and Gordon Boyce

The purpose of this paper is to examine the influences on the adoption of environmental management accounting (EMA) in corporatised water supply organisations, from an

1641

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the influences on the adoption of environmental management accounting (EMA) in corporatised water supply organisations, from an institutional theory perspective, drawing on the concepts of reflexive isomorphism and institutional logics.

Design/methodology/approach

The primary research involves case analysis of three companies in the Australian water supply industry, drawing on interviews, internal documents and publicly available documents, including annual reports.

Findings

Two key drivers for the adoption and emergence of EMA are: the emergence of a government regulator in the form of the Essential Services Commission (ESC) and community expectations with regard to environmental performance and disclosure. The water organisations were found to be reflexively isomorphic, while seeking to align their commercial logic to “sustainability” and “ensuring community expectations” logics to the legitimate adoption of EMA.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to the literature by providing case study evidence of the intentions and motivations of management in adopting EMA, and the nature of that adoption process over an extended period. Further, it provides empirical evidence of the applicability of reflexive isomorphism in the context of EMA and institutional logics.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 32 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 12 June 2007

Carol A. Adams and Patty McNicholas

The purpose of this study is to contribute to the understanding of corporate processes for developing a sustainability report, the hurdles faced by organisations and the…

25125

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to contribute to the understanding of corporate processes for developing a sustainability report, the hurdles faced by organisations and the way in which organisational change towards improved accountability occurs and can lead to changes in sustainability performance.

Design/methodology/approach

This research involves engagement through an action research approach involving the observation of corporate meetings, the provision of feedback on those meetings by the researchers and review of internet and hard copy sustainability reporting.

Findings

The study identified a number of impediments to the development of a sustainability reporting framework and its integration into planning and decision making, as well as forces for change. These were analysed using the organisational literature, particularly Kurt Lewin's integrated model of planned change. Differences were observed between the state‐owned organisation and prior studies of shareholder owned companies in their motivations for achieving sustainability and greater accountability.

Practical implications

From the organisation's perspective, the study provided immediate feedback which enhanced reporting practices and the incorporation of sustainability issues into decision making. The study has the potential to improve practice in other organisations through the identification of impediments to and forces for change not considered in prior theorising.

Originality/value

The action research approach contributes to knowledge and theorising in a way which could not have been achieved through interviews alone. It assisted change within the organisation in: adopting a sustainability reporting framework; integrating sustainability issues into planning and decision making; and, further embedding sustainability and accountability values. The findings in the state owned organisation contrast recent findings for shareholder‐owned companies.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 20 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

1 – 10 of 385