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Article
Publication date: 17 July 2019

Gerard William Stone and Sumit Lodhia

A goal of integrated reporting (IR) under the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC)’s leadership is to provide clearly written, comprehensible and accessible…

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1094

Abstract

Purpose

A goal of integrated reporting (IR) under the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC)’s leadership is to provide clearly written, comprehensible and accessible information. In light of this objective, the purpose of this paper is to explore the readability and accessibility of integrated reports, an issue magnified by the IIRC’s continual commitment to clear and readable report language, and its intention for IR to become the corporate reporting norm.

Design/methodology/approach

In a whole text software facilitated analysis, the study utilises readability measures and supplementary measures of reader accessibility in a multi-year analysis of a large sample of global integrated reports sourced from the IIRC examples database.

Findings

The findings highlight the low readability of analysed integrated reports and indicate that readability is not improving. The supplementary measures suggest sub-optimal use of visual communication forms and overuse of structural presentation techniques which may contribute to reader accessibility of the analysed reports.

Research limitations/implications

The study extends readability analysis to an emerging corporate reporting phenomenon and its findings contribute to the growing IR literature. The study applies supplementary measures of reader accessibility which advance the methods available to assess the communication efficacy of integrated and other corporate reports.

Practical implications

The analysis of the readability and accessibility of integrated reports in the study indicates that the IIRC’s goal of clear, comprehensible and accessible reporting is not reflected by reporters’ practices. This has implications for the IIRC, reporting organisations, report readers and regulators.

Originality/value

The study represents the first large-scale analysis of the readability and accessibility of global integrated reports.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 32 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 10 April 2020

Sumit Lodhia, Amanpreet Kaur and Gerard Stone

This paper aims to examine the use of social media for sustainability reporting by the largest Australia companies as a means of seeking legitimacy from stakeholders.

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to examine the use of social media for sustainability reporting by the largest Australia companies as a means of seeking legitimacy from stakeholders.

Design/methodology/approach

Qualitative content analysis was applied to examine social and environmental disclosures posted by Australian companies on three social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and to observe stakeholder interaction in relation to the social and environmental postings.

Findings

The findings of this study indicate a limited use of social media by the top 50 Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) listed companies for sustainability reporting as only 46 per cent of the companies used Facebook, Twitter and/or LinkedIn. Nevertheless, those companies which actively used social media were able to seek legitimacy through information disclosure and dialogue with stakeholders. Social issues such as community support, employees, gender equality and diversity dominated the three social media platforms when compared to environmental issues and all disclosures had a positive tone. These disclosures in turn framed the dialogue with stakeholders, leading to use of social media platforms that companies preferred and enabling a close control over online discussions.

Research limitations/implications

This study highlights that social media sustainability communication focuses on symbolic legitimacy strategies, leading to companies managing the impressions of their stakeholders and controlling the dialogue with them.

Practical implications

This study provides an understanding of the actual practice of social media sustainability communication and has implications for both organisations and their stakeholders.

Originality/value

This study provides in-depth insights into the use of social media to transform sustainability reporting, an issue that has limited coverage in prior literature and extends the application of legitimacy theory to social media communication.

Details

Meditari Accountancy Research, vol. 28 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2049-372X

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Article
Publication date: 18 April 2016

Gerard William Stone and Lee Parker

The purpose of this paper is to provide a comment on “The struggle to fabricate accounting narrative obfuscation: An actor-network-theoretic analysis of a failing project”…

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333

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to provide a comment on “The struggle to fabricate accounting narrative obfuscation: An actor-network-theoretic analysis of a failing project” by Brian Rutherford.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper discusses issues highlighted by Rutherford regarding the unresolved limitations of the Flesch formulaic approach to readability analysis and the narrow focus of readability research in accounting.

Findings

Commencing with an overview of an important shift in the use of the Flesch formula in accounting readability research in 2004, the paper outlines the emergence of supplementary measures and proxies of readability and reader accessibility of accounting prose. When used in combination with Flesch, the two measures augment readability analysis, ameliorate the formula’s limitations and broaden readability research scope and focus.

Originality/value

The paper gives impetus to the development of additional supplementary measures and proxies of readability and reader access which are necessary to further expand the horizons of accounting readability research and meet ongoing changes to the contemporary accounting communications landscape.

Details

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, vol. 13 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1176-6093

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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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Article
Publication date: 18 April 2016

Brian A. Rutherford

To respond to the comment by Stone and Parker on my paper “The struggle to fabricate accounting narrative obfuscation: An actor-network-theoretic analysis of a failing project”.

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406

Abstract

Purpose

To respond to the comment by Stone and Parker on my paper “The struggle to fabricate accounting narrative obfuscation: An actor-network-theoretic analysis of a failing project”.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper responds to issues highlighted by Stone and Parker.

Findings

This response argues that there is at least one alternative to the augmentation of Flesch: that we bring our skills and experience as accountants directly to bear on narratives, to analyse and report on how accessible and informative they are – and even to what extent they obfuscate – in ways that will, at least according to some definitions, be subjective but perhaps no more subjective than asserting that some simple statistic represents a reliable proxy for a complex notion such as accessibility.

Originality/value

This comment adds to the necessary debate about how we should tackle research on accounting narratives.

Details

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, vol. 13 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1176-6093

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Book part
Publication date: 30 March 2016

Gerard Hoyne, Julia Alessandrini and Marc Fellman

The training of doctoral students has traditionally focused on the academic imperatives associated with research training with less attention accorded to developing other…

Abstract

The training of doctoral students has traditionally focused on the academic imperatives associated with research training with less attention accorded to developing other professional skills that are likely to facilitate broader employment opportunities after graduation. The reality is that a lower proportion of PhD graduates than was the case will go on to work in academia (https://go8.edu.au/sites/default/files/docs/the-changing-phd_final.pdf). And increasingly, careers outside of academia which offer alternative career pathways for new graduates encompass roles involving such high level skills as problem-solving, critical thinking, project management, leadership, innovation, and enterprise. Some would argue that the Australian PhD is at risk of failing to meet the employment challenges of the twenty-first century doctoral graduate. But how are doctoral students to acquire transferable abilities if their doctoral program is focused largely on developing research skills? (This is not of course to argue that there aren’t any programs seeking to address these questions. Rutgers University in the United States, for example, has implemented a program with an emphasis on leadership and other transferrable skills.) Indeed the discussion begs the question what is the purpose of the PhD? While this question appears to be under consideration globally, this chapter attempts to address it from within an Australian context.

Details

Emerging Directions in Doctoral Education
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78560-135-4

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Article
Publication date: 5 April 2013

Gerard Stone and Lee D. Parker

This paper aims to examine and critique the accounting literature's dominant readability formula, the Flesch formula. Furthermore, the paper sets out to propose refinement…

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1031

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to examine and critique the accounting literature's dominant readability formula, the Flesch formula. Furthermore, the paper sets out to propose refinement and augmentation to the formula with a view to expanding its applicability and relevance to researchers' attempts at better understanding and critiquing the effectiveness of accounting communications. This aim extends to setting a more robust foundation for informing policymakers' and practitioners' interest in implementing more effective communications with their target stakeholders.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper offers an historically informed methodological critique of the current articulation and application of the Flesch formula, both generally and in accounting research. This critique forms the basis for developing proposed revisions and supplementary measures to augment Flesch's coverage. These are presented with sample empirics.

Findings

Illustrative examples suggest that it is feasible and desirable to apply a revised formula that reduces Flesch's misplaced emphasis on word length by respecifying its sentence length variable, a probable cause of low readability. A reader attribute score further enhances the formula by integrating the considerable impact of readers' attributes on readability and accounting communication effectiveness. Supplementary measures, comprising non‐narrative communications dimensions, are introduced as a foundation for further research.

Originality/value

The paper provides not only critique but also refinement and augmentation of the much used Flesch readability formula for accounting communications research. It offers a first stage approach to encompassing potentially important communication elements such as readers' attributes, tables, graphs and headings, to date critiqued as potentially important but left unattended by accounting researchers. This offers the prospect of extending Flesch's application to contemporary accounting communications issues and questions.

Details

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, vol. 10 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1176-6093

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Article
Publication date: 5 October 2015

Gerard Stone

This study aims to explore the existence and strength of power through focussing on the manner in which accountants exercise power in their advisory relationship with…

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1300

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to explore the existence and strength of power through focussing on the manner in which accountants exercise power in their advisory relationship with small business.

Design/methodology/approach

Interviews provided insights into accountants’ power-related perceptions, experiences and use of power in the advisory relationship. A questionnaire accessed evidence from small business owner-managers (SBOMs). Power theoretical perspectives informed the analysis of the findings.

Findings

Accountants’ expert and information power is a consequence of SBOMs’ dependence on their accountants’ expertise and knowledge. Accountants construct advisor roles and exercise power in a manner indicating that they attempt to manage rather than exploit power imbalances to the detriment of dependent SBOMs. However, outbreaks of frustration and conflict in the relationship illustrate the difficulties in managing the dysfunctional consequences of power imbalances.

Research limitations/implications

While the findings are restricted to the Australian accountant–small business advisory relationship, they offer a basis for research into the effect of power on the relationship in other national contexts. Research which includes the views of managers of failed small businesses would also extend this work.

Practical implications

The study’s focus on accountants’ experiences can assist practitioners endeavouring to develop advisory relationships with small business and designers of professional development programmes seeking to optimise the value of the advisory relationship.

Originality/value

The paper extends the study of power to the under-researched yet important accountant–small business advisory area. Its findings are of interest to accountants and accounting policymakers who envisage a broadening of accountants’ small business advisory role.

Details

Meditari Accountancy Research, vol. 23 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2049-372X

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Article
Publication date: 6 April 2012

Gerard Stone

The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the effectiveness of one of accounting practitioners' most widely‐used client relations techniques. By evaluating the…

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1049

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the effectiveness of one of accounting practitioners' most widely‐used client relations techniques. By evaluating the effectiveness of the newsletters that accountants provide to small business managers, the paper critically assesses their role in contributing to accountants' overall strategy for developing relations with their substantial small business manager client base.

Design/methodology/approach

Semi‐structured interviews were conducted with ten accountants who have provided newsletters to small business clients. The interviews were motivated by the results of a questionnaire administered to a sample of small business managers. The interview findings offer valuable insights into accountants' rationale for providing newsletters to their small business clients and accountants' assessment of the effectiveness of newsletters as a client relations technique. Analysis of the findings is informed by media richness theory.

Findings

The findings indicate that, despite their apparent popularity amongst professional accounting firms, newsletters are an ineffective method for developing relations with accountants' small business manager clients. The effectiveness of accountants' newsletters is diminished by the generic impersonal nature of the newsletter content that managers of small firms cannot relate to their own circumstances and by newsletters' technical accounting and tax content that small business managers have difficulty understanding.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to redressing a gap in research regarding the effectiveness of newsletters in accountants' relations with the economically significant small business sector, while better informing practitioners' development of their advisory relationship with small business managers. Rapidly emerging social media alternatives to the widespread practice of distributing newsletters to facilitate relations with small business clients are introduced as an emergent phenomenon.

Details

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, vol. 9 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1176-6093

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Article
Publication date: 2 August 2011

Gerard Stone

The purpose of this paper is to explore the impact of small business managers ' objectives and preferred methods of communicating on the communications aspect of…

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4853

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the impact of small business managers ' objectives and preferred methods of communicating on the communications aspect of accountants ' advisory relationship with small business. Through exploring and reporting on these issues, the paper seeks to contribute to understanding of accounting ' s capacity to satisfy the communication needs of its users.

Design/methodology/approach

The study employs a mixed methodology, comprising a questionnaire to access evidence from small business managers and semi-structured interviews with accountants, which provide a complementary perspective to accountant/small business communications. The analysis of the findings is informed by media richness theory.

Findings

Small business managers prefer direct forms of contact with their accountants and the richness of verbal communications. This is demonstrated in accountants ' use of visual and audio cues, including reinforcing and adjusting techniques, which enhance the appeal and utility of verbal communications. Accountants ' documents have been relegated to a supplementary reinforcing function in the profession ' s communications with small business. Small firm managers ' objectives influence their interest in and use of accounting information and the communications approach that their accountant implements. The findings indicate that accountants adopt communications approaches with small business managers, which satisfy the communication needs of the economically significant small business sector, a significant user of accounting information and services.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to redressing a gap in the accounting discipline ' s literature regarding accountants ' communications with small business, while offering insights that may be useful to practitioners in their advisory relationships with small business managers.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 24 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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