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Article
Publication date: 20 March 2017

Matias Laine, Janne T. Järvinen, Timo Hyvönen and Hannele Kantola

Voluntary corporate social responsibility reporting has developed into an everyday activity for many commercial organizations, and scholarly interest in these practices…

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Abstract

Purpose

Voluntary corporate social responsibility reporting has developed into an everyday activity for many commercial organizations, and scholarly interest in these practices continues to increase. This paper focusses on one subset of these disclosures, namely the figures relating to environmental expenditures and investments published by various organizations. The purpose of this paper is to provide insights into the nature, role and significance of such financial environmental information. Despite their seeming accuracy and preciseness, little is known about how such financial environmental information is constructed and subsequently used in organizational settings.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper is based on a qualitative case study focussing on a Finnish energy company. The authors build the investigation primarily on 26 semi-structured interviews with employees at all organizational levels, which the authors supplement with various documentary sources. The interpretation draws on the notion of loose coupling, which the authors use as a method theory to provide a better understanding of this complex organizational practice.

Findings

The authors highlight the ambiguous and imprecise nature of the outwardly accurate figures provided by the company. The authors argue that disclosed financial environmental information is only loosely coupled with various dimensions, including the organization’s actual activities, its environmental impacts and organizational decision making.

Originality/value

The findings contrast with those of some prior research, which has considered financial environmental information highly valuable. As for broader implications, the paper discusses the accuracy of public records based on such ambiguous organizational figures.

Details

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

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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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1772

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: 18 September 2009

Matias Laine

The purpose of this paper is to shed further light on how corporate environmental disclosures are used to respond to institutional pressures stemming from the social context.

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3138

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to shed further light on how corporate environmental disclosures are used to respond to institutional pressures stemming from the social context.

Design/methodology/approach

Interpretive textual analysis is applied to discuss how the environmental disclosures of a leading Finnish chemical company developed during the period 1972‐2005. This discussion is accompanied by an analysis of the social and institutional context in which the company has been operating. The development of the disclosures is reflected against changing social and institutional pressures identified from the perspective of new institutional sociology.

Findings

The results show that during these 34 years there have been major transitions in the rhetoric used by the case company in its environmental disclosures. These transitions coincide with changes in the social and institutional context. It is argued that the case company has adjusted its disclosures to respond to the varying institutional pressures in order to maintain a legitimate position in society.

Research limitations/implications

The subjective nature of the interpretive approach and the use of a single case limit the generalisability of the results. However, the longitudinal approach is argued to produce valuable insights on how corporate disclosures are used as a communication tool to portray the organisation in a certain light.

Originality/value

The study adds to a growing body of literature using interpretive approaches in deconstructing corporate disclosures. The influence exerted by social and institutional pressures on corporate disclosures is highlighted, further research avenues can therefore be proposed.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 22 no. 7
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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1613

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: 15 February 2016

John Ferguson, Thereza Raquel Sales de Aguiar and Anne Fearfull

The purpose of this paper is to explore corporate communications related to climate change in both a voluntary and mandatory setting. Adopting a critical perspective, the…

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4434

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore corporate communications related to climate change in both a voluntary and mandatory setting. Adopting a critical perspective, the paper examines how companies who participated in the voluntary UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS) and the UK Government’s mandatory Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme positioned themselves within the climate change debate. In particular, the analysis draws attention to how companies, through their communicative practice, helped to constitute and reproduce the structure of the field in which they operate.

Design/methodology/approach

A context-sensitive discursive analysis of 99 stand-alone reports produced by companies participating in the UK ETS and CRC over a nine-year period. The analysis is informed by Thompson’s (1990) depth-hermeneutic framework, which mediates the connection between linguistic strategies and the institutional field.

Findings

The analysis suggests that companies tended to adopt particular linguistic strategies in their communications related to climate change. For example, the strategy of “rationalisation” was employed in order to emphasise the organisational “opportunities” resulting from climate change; in this sense, companies sought to exploit climate crises in order to advance a doctrine that endorsed market-based solutions. A noteworthy finding was that in the mandatory CRC period, there was a notable shift towards the employment of the strategies that Thompson (1990) refers to as “differentiation” – whereby companies attempted to displace responsibility by presenting either government or suppliers as barriers to progress.

Originality/value

This paper explores how disclosure on climate change evolved while organisations participate in voluntary and compulsory climate change initiatives. In this respect, the analysis is informed by the social and political context in which the disclosure was produced.

Details

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

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Article
Publication date: 2 August 2013

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Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 26 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Book part
Publication date: 17 April 2018

Abstract

Details

Sustainability Accounting
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78754-889-3

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Book part
Publication date: 23 March 2017

Abstract

Details

Advances in Environmental Accounting & Management: Social and Environmental Accounting in Brazil
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78635-376-4

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Article
Publication date: 16 February 2015

Oana Mihaela Apostol

The purpose of this paper is to look more closely, in the context of a given case study, at the role of civil society’s counter-accounts in facilitating democratic change…

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1474

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to look more closely, in the context of a given case study, at the role of civil society’s counter-accounts in facilitating democratic change in society, as an essential goal of an emancipatory and radical social accounting project.

Design/methodology/approach

A case study of a Canadian company’s plans to open a gold mine in western Romania is here analysed. Civil society’s opposition to the mining project gave rise to an unprecedented social movement contesting the project’s utility for Romanian society. The role played by counter-accounts produced by civil society groups is investigated.

Findings

Counter-accounts produced by civil society played multiple roles in the case study analysed. First, counter-accounts indicated the failure of corporate reports to present the gold mining project in a balanced manner. Second, counter-accounts were successful in problematizing the corporate approach to addressing the social, cultural and environmental impacts of the project, while also nurturing societal debate on these issues. Third, counter-accounts exposed the ideological inclinations of state institutions to favour economic interests over the social, cultural and environmental ones. As a result of these contributions, even if the counter-accounts were subjective, this study claims that they form a good basis for the development of emancipatory accounting.

Research limitations/implications

Limitations associated with an interpretative approach and case study research apply.

Originality/value

The paper illustrates the potential of civil society’s counter accounts to enable societal debates, as means towards democratic, transformative change.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 28 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 13 June 2018

Delphine Gibassier, Michelle Rodrigue and Diane-Laure Arjaliès

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the process through which an International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) pilot company adopted “integrated reporting” (IR), a…

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2626

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the process through which an International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) pilot company adopted “integrated reporting” (IR), a management innovation that merges financial and non-financial reporting.

Design/methodology/approach

A seven-year longitudinal ethnographic study based on semi-structured interviews, observations, and documentary evidence is used to analyze this multinational company’s IR adoption process from its decision to become an IIRC pilot organization to the publication of its first integrated report.

Findings

Findings demonstrate that the company envisioned IR as a “rational myth” (Hatchuel, 1998; Hatchuel and Weil, 1992). This conceptualization acted as a springboard for IR adoption, with the mythical dimension residing in the promise that IR had the potential to portray global performance in light of the company’s own foundational myth. The company challenged the vision of IR suggested by the IIRC to stay true to its conceptualization of IR and eventually chose to implement its own version of an integrated report.

Originality/value

The study enriches previous research on IR and management innovations by showing how important it is for organizations to acknowledge the mythical dimension of the management innovations they pursue to support their adoption processes. These findings, suggest that myths can play a productive role in transforming business (reporting) practices. Some transition conditions that make this transformation possible are identified and the implications of these results for the future of IR, sustainability, and accounting more broadly are discussed.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 31 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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