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Article
Publication date: 18 September 2017

Matias Laine and Eija Vinnari

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the dynamics and transformative potential associated with counter accounts. It explores how counter-accountants’ attempts to…

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1768

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the dynamics and transformative potential associated with counter accounts. It explores how counter-accountants’ attempts to rearticulate animal production result in their own identity becoming constructed during the conflict setting and how this identity subsequently relates to the transformative potential of the counter accounts.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper investigates counter accounts released during an animal rights activists’ campaign against industrial meat and dairy production in Finland. The counter accounts, consisting of secretly filmed videos from pig farms, contrasted the official depiction of animal farming and received wide publicity over several years. The main empirical data set consists of 21 interviews with a variety of parties that have a stake in the conflict. This data set is supplemented with a broad set of published documentary material.

Findings

The authors find that the counter accounts managed, to some extent, to rearticulate the meaning of animal production, potentially resulting in the emergence of small-scale societal effects. When trying to undermine the counter-accountants’ radical political demand, the dominant social groups not only dismissed the counter accounts but also attempted to constitute the counter-accountants’ identity as irresponsible, militant and negligent, drawing a firm political boundary between “them” and “us.” Likewise, the counter-accountants seemed reluctant to communicate with representatives of the dominant regime, resulting in an antagonistic as opposed to an agonistic relationship between the two political groups. The paper also discusses ethical questions concerning the production of counter accounts, the importance of having a clearly articulated political vision, and the challenges related to evaluating whether the counter accounts have been successful.

Originality/value

The paper provides insights into the design, use and reception of counter accounts in a real-life social setting, thus providing a direct response to a recent call by Thomson et al. (2015). The paper illustrates the usefulness of the conceptual dynamic conflict arena framework presented by Thomson et al. (2015), and makes use of discourse theory (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985; Laclau, 2005, 2001, 1996) to highlight how in exploring the transformative potential of counter accounts it is necessary to also consider how the identity of the counter-accountants becomes constructed and understood. Furthermore, the paper also seeks to advance the connections between accounting research and significant global problems by investigating an ethically and environmentally disputed industry, and by engaging with the interrelationships between accounts and accountability in the context of socio-ecological change.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 30 no. 7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 20 March 2017

Kari Lukka and Eija Vinnari

The purpose of this paper is to examine the philosophical and practical compatibility of actor-network theory (ANT) and interventionist research (IVR) and search for…

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1361

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the philosophical and practical compatibility of actor-network theory (ANT) and interventionist research (IVR) and search for explanations for their scant combined use. The scope of investigation is limited to accounting, management and organization studies (MOS), but the findings are believed to be applicable in other social sciences as well.

Design/methodology/approach

An analysis is conducted of accounting and MOS research in addition to interviewing eight accounting scholars who have applied IVR and/or ANT in their research.

Findings

A comparison of the philosophical and other features of ANT and IVR suggests that they should be relatively easily combinable in studies. Based on interview material, three types of barriers to combining ANT and IVR are identified: perceived epistemological incompatibility, fear of going native or losing neutrality and academic tribes. However, subsequent analysis indicates that none of these forms an insurmountable obstacle to the combination.

Research limitations/implications

The combined application of ANT and IVR could benefit both IVR and ANT researchers in management accounting as it would enable them to conduct theoretically grounded studies on dynamic processes, such as the emergence and implementation of accounting innovations, to pose original research questions and to find new perspectives to accounting phenomena.

Practical implications

Employing ANT and IVR in combination could increase organizational interest in management accounting research.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to the discussion on the compatibility of different research approaches and highlights ways in which researchers could benefit from combining ANT and IVR.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 30 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 2 September 2021

Hanna Silvola and Eija Vinnari

The purpose of this paper is to enrich extant understanding of the role of both agency and context in the uptake of sustainability assurance. To this end, the authors…

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2086

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to enrich extant understanding of the role of both agency and context in the uptake of sustainability assurance. To this end, the authors examine auditors' attempts to promote sustainability assurance and establish it as a practice requiring the professional involvement of auditors.

Design/methodology/approach

Applying institutional work (Lawrence and Suddaby, 2006) and institutional logics (Thornton, 2002; Thornton et al., 2012) as the method theories, the authors examine interview data and a variety of documentary evidence collected in Finland, a small society characterized by social and environmental values, beliefs in functioning institutions and public trust in companies behaving responsibly.

Findings

With this study, the authors make two main contributions to extant literature. First, the authors illustrate the limits that society-level logics related to corporate social responsibility, together with the undermining or rejected institutional work of other agents, place especially on the political and cultural work undertaken by auditors. Second, the study responds to Power's (2003) call for country-specific studies by exploring a rather unique context, Finland, where societal trust in companies is arguably stronger than in many other countries and this trust appears to affect how actors perceive the need for sustainability assurance.

Originality/value

This is one of the few accounting studies that combines institutional logics and institutional work to study the uptake of a management fashion, in this case sustainability assurance.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 34 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 15 February 2016

Kari Lukka and Eija Vinnari

The purpose of this paper is to provide a response to the commentary of Lowe, De Loo and Nama concerning the authors’ previous article, which was published in Accounting

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789

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to provide a response to the commentary of Lowe, De Loo and Nama concerning the authors’ previous article, which was published in Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Volume 27 Number 8.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors address the main points of the commentary by Lowe et al.

Findings

In addressing each of these issues, the authors point out a few misunderstandings included in the critique as well as make an attempt to further clarify the previous argument.

Originality/value

The authors maintain that distinguishing between domain theory and method theory in accounting research will be of help to researchers in several ways.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 29 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 16 September 2013

Eija Vinnari and Matias Laine

– The study seeks to add to the understanding of the diffusion and decline of environmental reporting practices.

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1612

Abstract

Purpose

The study seeks to add to the understanding of the diffusion and decline of environmental reporting practices.

Design/methodology/approach

Semi-structured interviews and municipal water utility publications are analysed to identify factors which have influenced the diffusion and subsequent decline of environmental reporting practices within the Finnish water sector.

Findings

The findings suggest a dynamic view of the diffusion and decline of environmental reporting, showing that a variety of forces operated jointly over time. The initial swift diffusion may be mostly explained from the perspectives of fad and fashion, whereas the subsequent gradual decline of such reporting appears to have been driven mainly by internal organizational factors and a lack of outside pressure.

Research limitations/implications

The paper relies on a qualitative dataset, implying that extensive care is needed when seeking to generalise or apply the findings to different contexts or organizational fields.

Practical implications

The findings presented here should prove interesting for public sector managers, who are considering how, if at all, their organization should engage in social and environmental reporting.

Originality/value

The paper provides new insights into public sector sustainability reporting and presents reasons for its decline. In addition, the analysis illustrates the applicability of Abrahamson's typology of innovation diffusion to the study of social and environmental reporting practices.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 26 no. 7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 2 October 2014

Kari Lukka and Eija Vinnari

The purpose of this paper is to distinguish two roles of theories, domain theory and method theory, and examine their relationships in management accounting research. Are…

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6114

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to distinguish two roles of theories, domain theory and method theory, and examine their relationships in management accounting research. Are these two roles explicitly distinguished in management accounting studies? Can this be achieved in an unambiguous manner? Where do ambitions for theoretical contribution lie in management accounting studies that employ method theories?

Design/methodology/approach

The authors develop a conceptual framework for analysing possible relationships between domain theories and method theories in studies and illustrate the theoretical arguments with examples from management accounting studies employing Actor-Network Theory (ANT) as their method theory.

Findings

There can be various types of relationships between domain theories and method theories, and the theoretical ambition of the analysed studies typically focused on domain theories. However, ambiguity can exist with regard to the location of a study's theoretical ambition. Both domain theories and method theories tend to be moving fields, and their interaction can add to this feature.

Research limitations/implications

The suggested conceptual clarification assists in the reconciliation of extreme perspectives that relate to management accounting and theory. It will also help researchers to systematically design their own work and evaluate that of others. An increased understanding of how a field develops as a result of interaction with method theories might perhaps alleviate concerns regarding the value of mobilizing the latter.

Originality/value

The analysis contributes to the on-going debate on the value and effects of employing method theories, or theoretical lenses, in management accounting research.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 27 no. 8
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 26 February 2014

Eija Vinnari and Peter Skærbæk

The purpose of this paper is to analyse the implementation of risk management as a tool for internal audit activities, focusing on unexpected effects or uncertainties…

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5055

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to analyse the implementation of risk management as a tool for internal audit activities, focusing on unexpected effects or uncertainties generated during its application.

Design/methodology/approach

Public and confidential documents as well as semi-structured interviews are analysed through the lens of actor-network theory to identify the effects of risk management devices in a Finnish municipality.

Findings

The authors found that risk management, rather than reducing uncertainty, itself created unexpected uncertainties that would otherwise not have emerged. These include uncertainties relating to legal aspects of risk management solutions, in particular the issue concerning which types of document are considered legally valid; uncertainties relating to the definition and operationalisation of risk management; and uncertainties relating to the resources available for expanding risk management. More generally, such uncertainties relate to the professional identities and responsibilities of operational managers as defined by the framing devices.

Originality/value

The paper offers three contributions to the extant literature: first, it shows how risk management itself produces uncertainties. Secondly, it shows how internal auditors can assume a central role in the risk management system. Thirdly, it develops Callon's framing/overflowing framework with the notion that multiple frames are linked and create unexpected dynamics, and applies it to the study on the effects of risk management tools in an internal audit context. It shows how, despite recurring attempts to refine risk management, further uncertainties are continuously produced, thus providing an empirical illustration of how reframing and overflowing intertwine in a continual process.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 27 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Content available
Article
Publication date: 12 January 2022

Martin R.W. Hiebl

Abstract

Details

Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change, vol. 18 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1832-5912

Open Access
Article
Publication date: 19 February 2021

Oana Apostol, Marileena Mäkelä, Katariina Heikkilä, Maria Höyssä, Helka Kalliomäki, Leena Jokinen and Jouni Saarni

The paper explores processes associated with the adoption of corporate sustainability communication in a B2B context. It employs a combined action research and sensemaking…

Abstract

Purpose

The paper explores processes associated with the adoption of corporate sustainability communication in a B2B context. It employs a combined action research and sensemaking approach to document moments that precede the initiation of external sustainability communication.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper is the outcome of an action research project, where we examine the case of one industrial company that was silent on its multiple sustainability-related practices, but recently decided to become more transparent to the outside world. A processual approach to sensemaking is adopted to show how organisational and non-organisational members actively participated in meaning co-construction.

Findings

Corporate silence can be disrupted by triggering events that cause moments of sudden realisation for organisational members, eventually leading to the initiation of sensemaking processes inside the organisation. Once this occurs, the possibility of externally communicating sustainability appears a feasible and strategic approach to pursue. We document how different actors are involved in meaning co-construction and how the entire process of sensemaking unfolds.

Practical implications

A sensemaking approach sheds light on the complexity of sustainability communication, where multiple actors are involved. This is a useful approach to consider in order to couple sustainability with other organisational practices. Moreover, sensemaking opens a window of opportunity for various societal actors' interventions to shape the role and content of sustainability communication.

Originality/value

The paper offers an original, theoretically informed methodological contribution to the literature on sustainability communication by coupling a sensemaking approach with action research. The approach is employed to examine the role of internal organisational actors in sustainability reporting processes, an area that has received scant attention.

Details

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

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Article
Publication date: 2 May 2019

Jenni Puroila and Hannele Mäkelä

The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the socio-political role of materiality assessment in sustainability reporting literature and discuss the potential of…

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2008

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the socio-political role of materiality assessment in sustainability reporting literature and discuss the potential of materiality assessment to advance more inclusive accounting and reporting practices, in particular critical dialogic accounting.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing on literature on the concept of materiality together with insights from stakeholder engagement, commensuration and critical dialogic accounting the paper analyses disclosure on materiality in sustainability reports. Empirically, qualitative content analysis is used to analyse 44 sustainability reports from the leading companies.

Findings

The authors argue that, first, the technic-rational approach to materiality portrays the assessment as a neutral and value-free measurement, and second, the materiality matrix presents the multiple stakeholders as having a unified understanding of what is considered important in corporate sustainability. Thus, the technic-rational approach to the materiality assessment, reinforced with the use of the matrix is a value-laden judgement of what matters in corporate sustainability and narrows down rather than opens up the complexity of the assessment of material sustainability issues, stakeholder engagement and the societal pursuit of sustainable development.

Originality/value

The understandings and implications of the concept of materiality are ambiguous and wide-reaching, as, through constituting the legitimised set of claims and information on corporate sustainable performance, it impacts our understanding of sustainable development at large, and affects the corporate and policy-level transition towards sustainability. Exploring insights from critical dialogic accounting help us to elaborate on the conceptions and practical implications of materiality assessment that enhance stakeholder engagement in a democratic, rather than managerial, spirit.

Details

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

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