As a key element of corporate accountability, social and environmental accounting (SEA) has failed to yield significant results in terms of firms embracing goals other than…
As a key element of corporate accountability, social and environmental accounting (SEA) has failed to yield significant results in terms of firms embracing goals other than financial profitability. Influenced by the work of critical accountants on dialogic accounting, the study rejects binary frameworks and aims to contribute to an essential element of SEA, stakeholder engagement.
Business concerned with unconventional gas (UCG) extraction was chosen from numerous vehicles suited to examining multiple views on contested issues. The research explores perspectives expressed by community, while also including perspectives of one gas firm. Research is viewed through the lens of critical futures theory and methodology causal layered analysis (CLA) in the analysis of the interviews at the case study site in Australia. In addition, to broaden the understanding of “accountability”, participants captured their own views through images that they interpreted in the interviews. This methodology is known as photovoice.
Findings suggest that CLA enables access to multiple, complex and nuanced perspectives and various ways of knowing, some of which are less conscious.
Accessing multiple perspectives, including marginalized voices, gives rise to the potential to then collaboratively develop a more inclusive set of solutions to critically examine, and the CLA methodology appears to provide a fuller story, address “blindness” and enable a clearer “seeing”. This suggests access to new understandings. These two potentials should be further explored through follow up research.
This practice-based methodology involving civil society could provide SEA accounting practitioners with a greater range of possibilities; they would therefore benefit from incorporating “CLA thinking” as a basis in developing a pluralist, democratic and transformative approach to stakeholder engagement.
The study is an initial contribution in an ambitious task of democratizing accounting and accountability.
The study addresses a gap in accounting and accountability research by applying a critical futures theory and a practice-based method.
Social and environmental accountability by firms can be compromised by a lack of democracy within community engagement and decision-making processes. This is particularly evident…
Social and environmental accountability by firms can be compromised by a lack of democracy within community engagement and decision-making processes. This is particularly evident in potential conflict situations such as with unconventional gas (UCG) extraction. Dialogic engagement sits within dialogic accounting theory and offers a potentially valuable contribution to democratisation. This study aims to contribute to dialogic engagement as practice through the application of critical futures theory and methodology, causal layered analysis (CLA).
CLA was applied in field research firstly in interviews and then in a workshop setting involving participants with diverse perspectives on UCG. The workshop was planned around activities designed to: implement dialogic engagement as practice, critically unpack views on the present and future of UCG and energy needs through CLA; and evaluate the usefulness of the methodology.
Findings suggest that CLA enables access to multiple, complex and nuanced perspectives and facilitates, a deeper understanding of participants own views and of other differing views in relation to UCG, 1) a deeper understanding of participants own views, and of other differing views in relation to UCG, 2) a deeper analysis in the identification of key themes in discussions around UCG, and, 3) the identification by participants of “preferred futures” and “uncertainties” concerning energy needs.
CLA is a valuable tool for undertaking genuine community engagement and has wide-ranging application, one example being with interviews and focus groups. Moreover, with the inclusion of diverse perspectives, options and solutions emerging for consideration are increased. This in turn provides opportunities for creative decision-making through scenario identification and strategic development that potentially give rise to transformative possibilities.
CLA may well assist in moving firms, and indeed civil society, closer to reaching preferable social and environmental outcomes.
This cross-disciplinary research applies an innovative approach and methodology, taking democratic engagement to new depths.