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Article
Publication date: 23 July 2019

Massimo Contrafatto, Ericka Costa and Caterina Pesci

The purpose of this paper is to provide a theoretically informed analysis of social and environmental reporting (SER) evolution, i.e. how and why the SER evolved over time…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to provide a theoretically informed analysis of social and environmental reporting (SER) evolution, i.e. how and why the SER evolved over time in a cooperative bank in Italy.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper is based on a qualitative fieldwork case study conducted from 2011 to 2015. Information and data were collected through several methods including: interviews with managers involved in the SER’s process; analysis of the SER-related documents; analysis of the website; and observations in the field. The analysis of the empirical evidence draws on the institutional logic (IL) perspective, which provides theoretical insights to interpret the role of the contrasting institutional forces in the evolution of SER.

Findings

The empirical analysis unveils three different stages in the evolution of SER: the “birth” whereby a new form of social reporting was initiated; the “development” through which SER was implemented to become a formal component of the organizational management; and the “de-structuring” when the SER was gradually de-composed. This gradual de-structuring, as well as the initiation and implementation processes, was influenced by different institutionally infused rationalities and logics. These institutionally infused rationalities and logics, along with the specific organizational and contextual events, provided the resources, and created the space and opportunity, for the SER-related changes to occur.

Originality/value

The analysis offers theoretical insights to understand “how” (i.e. processes) and “why” (i.e. the conditions under which) SER gradually evolved, i.e. emerged, was constructed and developed during the phases of implementation and post-implementation. Furthermore, it is shown that SER is multifunctional in nature and unveils how and why these multiple functions change over time. Finally, the analysis provides a theoretical contribution by illuminating the role that different and contrasting ILs play in driving the adoption of organizational practices.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 32 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 17 December 2019

Massimo Contrafatto, John Ferguson, David Power, Lorna Stevenson and David Collison

The purpose of this paper is to provide a theoretically informed analysis of a struggle for power over the regulation of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and social…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to provide a theoretically informed analysis of a struggle for power over the regulation of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and social and environmental accounting and reporting (SEAR) within the European Union.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper combines insights from institutional theory (Lawrence and Buchanan, 2017) with Vaara et al.’s (2006) and Vaara and Tienar’s (2008) discursive strategies approach in order to interrogate the dynamics of the institutional “arena” that emerged in 2001, following the European Commission’s publication of a Green Paper (GP) on CSR policy and reporting. Drawing on multiple sources of data (including newspaper coverage, semi-structured interviews and written submissions by companies and NGOs), the authors analyse the institutional political strategies employed by companies and NGOs – two of the key stakeholder groupings who sought to influence the dynamics and outcome of the European initiative.

Findings

The results show that the 2001 GP was a “triggering event” (Hoffman, 1999) that led to the formation of the institutional arena that centred on whether CSR policy and reporting should be voluntary or mandatory. The findings highlight how two separate, but related forms of power (systemic and episodic power) were exercised much more effectively by companies compared to NGOs. The analysis of the power initiatives and discursive strategies deployed in the arena provides a theoretically informed understanding of the ways in which companies acted in concert to reach their objective of maintaining CSR and SEAR as a voluntary activity.

Originality/value

The theoretical framework outlined in the paper highlights how the analysis of CSR and SEAR regulation can be enriched by examining the deployment of episodic and systemic power by relevant actors.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 33 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Book part
Publication date: 27 November 2014

Massimo Contrafatto

This article focuses on the lesser-used notion of stewardship and stewardship-ism. Stewardship is a concept that has inspired the activities of several organizations whose…

Abstract

This article focuses on the lesser-used notion of stewardship and stewardship-ism. Stewardship is a concept that has inspired the activities of several organizations whose mission is to preserve, protect and maintain natural, social and economic assets for the benefit of stakeholders and communities. As observed by Contrafatto and Bebbington (2013), stewardship has some resonance with current policy agendas that attend to the issues related to sustainable development, corporate social responsibility and accountability. Most of the existing works on stewardship provide several perspectives with the focus being either on normative foundations of stewardship or on its organizational and managerial implications. In particular, the stewardship-related literature offers a range of conceptions and approaches ranking from a relatively narrow view of the resources, sources and time frame of stewardship to very broad specification. In this article, the management, organization and accounting literature is analysed to propose a map of current theorizing on stewardship. In particular, drawing on the methodological approach adopted by Lowndes (1996), four theoretical vignettes have been proposed to illustrate different variants and approaches in stewardship framework. Each vignette provides a set of conceptual constructs, ideas and views to understand stewardship and stewardship-inspired behaviour. The variety of approaches/perspectives on stewardship, as illustrated from the analysis undertaken in this article, provides an opportunity for deeper theory-based understanding of social and organizational dynamics. In particular, it is argued that the richness of perspectives, focus and levels of analysis could offer insights to conceptualize, see and make sense of some of the challenges that are posed by a desire for promoting transition towards more sustainable ways of organizing our society.

Details

Accountability and Social Accounting for Social and Non-Profit Organizations
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78441-004-9

Keywords

Book part
Publication date: 27 November 2014

Abstract

Details

Accountability and Social Accounting for Social and Non-Profit Organizations
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78441-004-9

Content available
Book part
Publication date: 27 November 2014

Abstract

Details

Accountability and Social Accounting for Social and Non-Profit Organizations
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78441-004-9

Content available
Book part
Publication date: 27 November 2014

Abstract

Details

Accountability and Social Accounting for Social and Non-Profit Organizations
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78441-004-9

Content available
Article
Publication date: 28 March 2008

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Abstract

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 21 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Book part
Publication date: 27 November 2014

Ericka Costa, Lee D. Parker and Michele Andreaus

Within the accounting discipline and its literature, attention to the role of social and non-profit organizations has been growing, particularly with respect to issues of…

Abstract

Within the accounting discipline and its literature, attention to the role of social and non-profit organizations has been growing, particularly with respect to issues of accountability and social accounting. In response, the aim of this introductory article is to present the background for the book by highlighting (i) the relevance and rise of the non-profit sector worldwide, (ii) the limitations of the conventional accounting framework when applied/transposed to NPOs and (iii) the ‘social accounting project’ for NPOs. The article presents analysis and critique based on a literature review of the accountability framework for NPOs. After presenting key worldwide statistics regarding the growing non-profit sector, the article points out the skepticism regarding the adoption of traditional accounting principles and frameworks for NPOs. The article offers both an examination of how to improve the accounting system for NPOs and a discussion of the benefits emerging from the social and environmental accounting and reporting models. ‘The social accounting project’ for NPOs is presented as a pathway towards these innovative practices increasing organizational transparency. This article and the book overall provide new contributions to the research literature, fostering synergies among financial accounting and social accounting scholars engaging with the NPO subject area. Moreover it brings together studies from a range of disciplines, such as financial accounting, social accounting, economics, management, and third-sector studies. This cross-disciplinary approach offers a major contribution to our developing knowledge in this field.

Details

Accountability and Social Accounting for Social and Non-Profit Organizations
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78441-004-9

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 4 October 2022

Teng Li, Nunung Nurul Hidayah, Ou Lyu and Alan Lowe

This case study presents a critical analysis of why and how corporate managers in China are reluctant to adopt sustainability reporting assurance (SRA) provided by…

Abstract

Purpose

This case study presents a critical analysis of why and how corporate managers in China are reluctant to adopt sustainability reporting assurance (SRA) provided by externally independent third-party assurers, despite the fact that it is acknowledged as a value-adding activity globally.

Design/methodology/approach

A longitudinal fieldwork case study was conducted from 2014 to 2019 in a Chinese central state-owned enterprise (CSOE), a pioneer in sustainability reporting practice since the mid-2000s, to collect first-hand empirical data on managerial perceptions of the adoption of external SRA. Semi-structured interviews with 25 managers involved in sustainability (reporting) practice were conducted. The interview data were triangulated with an analysis of archival documents and board meeting minutes pertaining to the undertakings of sustainability practices in the case study organization.

Findings

Our empirical analysis suggests that while managers recognize the benefits of adopting external SRA in enhancing the legitimacy of sustainability accountability, they oppose SRA because of their deep-rooted allegiance to the dominant logic of sociopolitical stability in China. SRA is envisaged to risk the stability of the socialist ideology with which CSOEs are imbued. Therefore, any transformational approach to accepting a novel (foreign) practice must be molded to gain control and autonomy, thereby maintain the hegemony of stability logic. Instead of disregarding external verification, managers of our case SOE appear to harness sustainability reporting as a navigational space to engage in internally crafted alternative manners in order to resist the rationality of SRA.

Originality/value

The empirical analysis presents a nuanced explanation as to why internal managers have hitherto been reluctant to embrace the embedding of independent assurance into the sustainability reporting process. Our prolonged fieldwork provides ample context-specific, intra-organizational evidence regarding the absence of SRA in Chinese CSOEs, which warrants more attention given their considerable presence in the global economy. In addition, the empirical analysis contributes to our understanding of the managerial capture of sustainability issues in a specific context of state capitalism and how organizations and individuals in an authoritarian regime interpret and respond to novel discourses derived from distinct institutional settings.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 10 July 2018

Ericka Costa, Caterina Pesci, Michele Andreaus and Emanuele Taufer

Drawing on the phenomenological concepts of “empathy” and “communal emotions” developed by Edith Stein (1917, 1922), the purpose of this paper is to discuss the…

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Abstract

Purpose

Drawing on the phenomenological concepts of “empathy” and “communal emotions” developed by Edith Stein (1917, 1922), the purpose of this paper is to discuss the co-existence both of the legitimacy and accountability perspectives in voluntarily delivered social and environmental reporting (SER), based on different “levels of empathy” towards different stakeholders.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper adopts an interpretive research design, drawn from Stein’s concept of empathy by using a mixed-method approach. A manual content analysis was performed on 393 cooperative banks’ (CB) social and environmental reports from 2005 to 2013 in Italy, and 14 semi-structured interviews.

Findings

The results show that CBs voluntarily disclose information in different ways to different stakeholders. According to Stein, the phenomenological concept of empathy, and its understanding within institutions, allows us to interpret these multiple perspectives within a single social and environmental report. Therefore, when the process of acquiring knowledge in the CB–stakeholder relationship is complete and mentalised (level 3, re-enactive empathy), the SER holds high informative power, consistent with the accountability perspective; on the contrary, when this process is peripheral and perceptional (level 1, basic empathy), the SER tends to provide more self-assessment information, attempting to portray the bank in a positive light, which is consistent with the legitimacy perspective.

Originality/value

The concept of empathy introduced in this paper can assist in interpreting the interactions between an organisation and different stakeholders within the same social and environmental report. Moreover, the approach adopted in this paper considers different stakeholders simultaneously, thus responding to previous concerns regarding the lack of focus on multiple stakeholders.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 32 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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