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Open Access
Article
Publication date: 17 February 2022

Daniela Argento, Laura Broccardo and Elisa Truant

This paper aims to examine why the sustainability paradox exists and how it unfolds by focusing on intraorganizational dynamics. It explores how organizational actors…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to examine why the sustainability paradox exists and how it unfolds by focusing on intraorganizational dynamics. It explores how organizational actors perceive and make sense of sustainability and thereby contribute to the sustainability paradox.

Design/methodology/approach

In a case study on IREN, an Italian listed multi-utility with considerable engagements with sustainability, data collection through interviews, e-mails and document analysis revealed contradictions raised by directors and middle managers. Findings were analyzed by iterating with the literature used to frame this study, which combines organizational sensemaking, paradoxes and management control.

Findings

The sustainability paradox comprises various facets. Directors and middle managers interpret sustainability differently depending on their role within the organization and their perceptions of the concept itself. Different interpretations thus occur within and across organizational levels and functions, impacting how sustainability is implemented and monitored. The use of parallel management control systems (MCSs) reflects multiple and fragmented sensemaking, which explains the facets of the sustainability paradox.

Research limitations/implications

Although this work illuminates the role played by individuals at top- and middle-management organizational levels and MCSs in relation to the sustainability paradox, more research is needed on how individuals make sense of sustainability at the lowest organizational levels.

Practical implications

Organizations claiming commitment to sustainability must establish communication forms on the practicalities of sustainability throughout the organization to stimulate shared sensemaking and the design and use of inclusive MCSs.

Originality/value

This paper explains why and how organizations unconsciously enact various facets of the sustainability paradox.

Details

Meditari Accountancy Research, vol. 30 no. 7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2049-372X

Keywords

Content available
Article
Publication date: 21 October 2020

Daniela Argento, Katarina Kaarbøe and Jarmo Vakkuri

This paper provides a reflective comparison of the budgetary implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for three Nordic countries: Finland, Norway and Sweden.

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper provides a reflective comparison of the budgetary implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for three Nordic countries: Finland, Norway and Sweden.

Design/methodology/approach

By drawing from the notion of ambiguity and constructions of certainty, this study analyzes the most relevant budgetary allocations and packages implemented by the governments of Finland, Norway and Sweden in response to the COVID-19 crisis using empirical documentary data.

Findings

Influenced by the need to save citizens' lives and protect the economy, the three countries have interpreted the COVID-19 threat in different ways. While Finland and Norway seem to be fighting a war against the virus, Sweden appears to view COVID-19 as an exceptionally difficult flu. These different perspectives are reflected in the strategies and budgetary responses implemented in the three countries.

Originality/value

By elaborating on the ambiguities of reality, causality and intentionality, this paper shows how the budgeting mindset aimed at creating certainties among citizens varies among the Nordic countries, which are generally assumed to be similar.

Details

Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management, vol. 32 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1096-3367

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 7 August 2020

Daniela Argento, Daniel Einarson, Lennart Mårtensson, Christel Persson, Karin Wendin and Albert Westergren

This paper aims to unveil how sustainability is integrated into the courses/programmes of higher education institutions. The research question addressed is: how do…

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to unveil how sustainability is integrated into the courses/programmes of higher education institutions. The research question addressed is: how do academics representing different disciplines cooperate and engage in the work of integrating sustainability into their teaching programmes.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper draws upon the notions of practise variation and institutional work from institutional theory and empirically focusses on the case of Kristianstad University (Sweden). This case is based on an autoethnographic approach and illustrates the experiences shared by six colleagues, representing different disciplines, engaged in implementing sustainability in their courses/programmes.

Findings

The findings highlight how academics representing different disciplines, with specific traditions and characteristics, face the sustainability challenge. Despite being bound by similar sustainable development goals, differences across disciplines need to be acknowledged and used as an asset if trans-disciplinarity is the ultimate goal.

Research limitations/implications

Although the intrinsic motivation of individuals to work with sustainability might be a strong driver, the implementation of sustainability within courses/programmes and across disciplines requires joint efforts and collective institutional work.

Practical implications

By highlighting how academics engage in the work of integrating sustainability, this study emphasizes that managers of higher education institutions need to account for the time and additional resources needed to ensure that academics effectively cope with sustainability. Intrinsic motivation may not last if organizational structures and leadership are not supportive on a practical level and in the long run.

Social implications

With the successful implementation of a holistic approach to sustainability, students will have better insights and understanding of both themselves and the surrounding society, laying the ground for an inclusive future society.

Originality/value

This paper emphasizes the gradual approach to be followed when sustainability becomes part of an organization-wide discourse. Dialogues within and across disciplines are needed to overcome silo thinking and stimulate cooperation within a trans-disciplinary approach.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 21 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

Keywords

Open Access
Article
Publication date: 30 July 2020

Francesca Manes-Rossi, Giuseppe Nicolò and Daniela Argento

Research dealing with non-financial reporting formats in public sector organizations is progressively expanding. This paper systematizes the existing literature with the…

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Abstract

Purpose

Research dealing with non-financial reporting formats in public sector organizations is progressively expanding. This paper systematizes the existing literature with the aim of understanding how research is developing and identifying the gaps in need of further investigation.

Design/methodology/approach

A structured literature review was conducted by rigorously following the steps defined in previous studies. The structured nature of the literature review paves the way for a solid understanding and critical analysis of the state of the art of research on non-financial reporting formats in public sector organizations.

Findings

The critical analysis of the literature shows that most existing studies have focused on sustainability reporting in higher education institutions, local governments and state-owned enterprises, while remaining silent on the healthcare sector. Additional theoretical and empirical approaches should feed future research. Several areas deserve further investigations that might impactfully affect public sector organizations, standard setters, practitioners and scholars.

Originality/value

This paper offers a comprehensive review of the literature on different reporting formats that public sector organizations adopt to report various dimensions of their performance to both internal and external stakeholders. The structured literature review enables the identification of future directions for the literature in this field.

Details

Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management, vol. 32 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1096-3367

Keywords

Open Access
Article
Publication date: 26 August 2022

Giuseppe Grossi and Daniela Argento

The purpose of this paper is to explain how public sector accounting has changed and is changing due to public governance development.

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explain how public sector accounting has changed and is changing due to public governance development.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper conducts a traditional literature review based on selected studies in the fields of accounting, public administration and management. The aim of the review is to explain how diverse forms of public governance influence the fate of public sector accounting, including accountability, performance measurement, budgeting and reporting practices.

Findings

Public governance is developing into more inclusive but also complex forms, resulting in network, collaborative and digital governance. Consequently, the focus and practices of public sector accounting have changed, as reflected in new types of accountability, performance measurement, budgeting and reporting practices.

Research limitations/implications

Drawing upon literature from different fields enables a deeper understanding of the changes in public sector accounting. Nevertheless, the intention is not to execute a systematic literature review but to provide an overview and resolve the scattered body of knowledge generated by previous contributions. The areas of risk management and auditing were not included and deserve further attention.

Originality/value

This paper discusses the need to continually redefine and reassess public sector accounting practices, by recognising the interdependencies between different actors, citizens and digital technologies.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 35 no. 9
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 31 January 2020

Daniela Argento, Dorota Dobija and Giuseppe Grossi

The purpose of this paper is to highlight and compare insights from research conducted in different disciplines on the effects of the use of calculative practices in…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to highlight and compare insights from research conducted in different disciplines on the effects of the use of calculative practices in academia. It also acts as an introduction to the special issue on “governing by numbers: audit culture and contemporary tales of universities’ accountability”.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper reviews the findings and reflections provided in academic literature on the various types of consequences stemming from the diffusion of the “audit culture” in academia. In so doing, it draws upon insights from previous literature in education, management and accounting, and other papers included in this special issue of Qualitative Research in Accounting and Management.

Findings

The literature review shows that a growing number of studies are focussing on the hybridization of universities, not only in terms of calculative practices (e.g. performance indicators) but also in relation to individual actors (e.g. academics and managers) who may have divergent values, and thus, act according to multiple logics (business and academic logics). It highlights many areas in which further robust academic research is needed to guide policy and practice developments in universities.

Research limitations/implications

This paper provides academics, regulators and decision-makers with relevant insights into the critical issues of using calculative practices in academia. Despite the negative effects have been observed in various disciplines, there is an evident perpetuation in the use of those practices.

Originality/value

This paper contributes to the ongoing debates on the disillusion of calculative practices in academia. Yet, positive changes can be achieved within the complex settings of “hybrid” universities when the apparent class division between academics and managers is bridged.

Details

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, vol. 17 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1176-6093

Keywords

Open Access
Article
Publication date: 2 February 2022

Timur Uman, Daniela Argento, Giorgia Mattei and Giuseppe Grossi

This paper explores how public audit institutions establish themselves as distinct actors on the public stage through communication practices. By focussing on the journey…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper explores how public audit institutions establish themselves as distinct actors on the public stage through communication practices. By focussing on the journey of the European Court of Auditors (ECA), this paper addresses the following research question: how does a transnational audit institution construct its actorhood through visual communication practices?

Design/methodology/approach

Using the theoretical framework of actorhood theory and inspired by the visual accounting methodology, this study explores the ECA actorhood journey through the visual analysis of front pages of its official journal (ECA Journal) from its inception in 2009 up to 2019. The visual analysis is conducted through content analysis and a two-step cluster analysis.

Findings

By showing how combinations of different visual artefacts have evolved over time, this study highlights the ways transnational public audit institutions, such as the ECA, construct their actorhood and position themselves on the public stage. It further reveals the underlying legitimacy mechanisms through which organisations such as the ECA position themselves in the public eye.

Originality/value

This study sheds light on the depiction of individuals and their contexts in interaction with each other and how this interaction reveals the development of the actorhood journey of the ECA over time.

Details

Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1096-3367

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 22 August 2019

Daniela Argento, Giuseppe Grossi, Kamilla Persson and Theres Vingren

The purpose of this paper is to explore the content of the sustainability reports of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and the factors influencing the sustainability…

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the content of the sustainability reports of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and the factors influencing the sustainability information they disclose.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing upon the literature on sustainability disclosure, institutional logics and hybrid organizations, several hypotheses were deduced. By means of a quantitative content analysis, the sustainability disclosure index of 45 Swedish SOEs was calculated. Statistical analyses were conducted to test which variables affected the sustainability disclosures of the selected SOEs.

Findings

The findings reveal that only state ownership and corporate size significantly affect SOEs’ sustainability disclosures. Fully state-owned SOEs disclose less sustainability information than partially state-owned SOEs. Large SOEs disclose more sustainability information than small SOEs. However, there are weak indications that having a public policy assignment (PPA) (activity) negatively influences environmental sustainability disclosures, and that having a majority of female directors on the board decreases the total sustainability information disclosed. In addition, the statistical analyses show that having state representatives on the board and being profitable may positively affect the disclosures.

Originality/value

Accountability is particularly important in SOEs, and their complex hybrid nature has an impact on sustainability disclosures in a surprising way. State ownership and control do not necessarily imply an increased amount of sustainability disclosure.

Article
Publication date: 25 October 2019

Daniela Argento, Giuseppe Grossi, Aki Jääskeläinen, Stefania Servalli and Petri Suomala

The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of performance measurement systems as technologies of government in the operationalisation of smart city programmes. It…

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of performance measurement systems as technologies of government in the operationalisation of smart city programmes. It answers the research question: how do the development and use of performance measurement systems support smart cities in the achievement of their goals?

Design/methodology/approach

This paper presents a longitudinal case study that uses an interventionist approach to investigate the possibilities and limitations of the use of performance measurement systems as technologies of government in a smart city. Interpretations are theoretically informed by the Foucauldian governmentality framework (Foucault, 2009) and by public sector performance measurement literature.

Findings

The findings address the benefits and criticalities confronting a smart city that introduces new performance measurement systems as a technology of government. Such technologies become problematic tools when the city network is characterised by a fragmentation of inter-departmental processes, and when forms of resistance emerge due to a lack of process owners, horizontal accountability and cooperation among involved parties.

Research limitations/implications

This paper is based on a case study of a single smart city, and outlines the need for both comparative and multidisciplinary analyses in order to analyse the causes and effects of smart city challenges.

Originality/value

This paper offers a critical understanding of the role of accounting in the smart city. The ineffectiveness of performance measurement systems is related to the multiple roles of such technologies of government, which may lead to a temporary paralysis in the achievement of smart city goals and programmes.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 33 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 11 May 2015

Daniela Argento and Peeter Peda

– The purpose of this paper is to explore the relationship between trust and contract in the context of externalized local public services provision.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the relationship between trust and contract in the context of externalized local public services provision.

Design/methodology/approach

A multi-theoretical framework is used to analyse different combinations of control mechanisms (i.e. trust and contract) with reference to three cases of externalized water service provision in Estonia consisting of inter-organizational relationships between local governments and water companies with different ownership structures (public, private and mixed public-private).

Findings

The relationship between trust and contract, which can either be substitutes or complements, or eventually erode each other, is contingent upon the capacity of interacting individuals (and related organizations) to keep interests aligned in water services provision.

Originality/value

The relationship between trust and contract is analysed by considering the interactions between key actors within the underlying governance setting.

Details

International Journal of Public Sector Management, vol. 28 no. 4/5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3558

Keywords

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