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Article
Publication date: 21 February 2020

Souâd Taïbi, Nicolas Antheaume and Delphine Gibassier

The purpose of this paper is to first empirically illustrate the construction of accounting for sustainable development tool (Bebbington and Gray, 2001) and, second, to…

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to first empirically illustrate the construction of accounting for sustainable development tool (Bebbington and Gray, 2001) and, second, to discuss the operationalization of accounting for sustainable development (Bebbington and Larrinaga, 2014).

Design/methodology/approach

This research is based on a unique intervention-research approach, the main author having worked part-time for four years on the development of the tool for a business organization in the organic food sector.

Findings

This paper proposes an operationalization of sustainable development within an accounting tool and presents the results of the calculations. It also touches briefly upon the organization’s decision not to adopt the tool. The research concludes on the difficulty of operationalizing the economic, social and environmental capitals while proposing results that demonstrate “unsustainability”.

Practical implications

This research in operationalizing sustainable development paves the way for future potential use of the tool described, and future developments to address the model’s current shortcomings, notably in interconnecting social and economic capitals with natural capital.

Social implications

The non-adoption of the accounting tool raises questions about the acceptability among practitioners of visualizing the unsustainability of their own organization, in particular within “green” and “socially responsible” businesses. Moreover, it raises the question of growth and decoupling of the organization’s impact from its economic growth.

Originality/value

This paper makes three contributions to the current literature. First, it furthers the discussion on how to operationalize accounting for sustainable development, notably by trying to implement capital as a liability (a debt), placing its “maintenance” at the very heart of the design. Second, it offers an initial operationalization of “system thinking” within a tool to account for sustainable development. Finally, it contributes to the literature on “engagement research” through a four-year intervention-research project.

Details

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, vol. 11 no. 7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2040-8021

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 29 May 2018

Nicolas Antheaume

The purpose of this paper is to present a history of social and environmental accounting (SEA) in France.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present a history of social and environmental accounting (SEA) in France.

Design/methodology/approach

The choice is made to select and analyze three important breakthroughs in the development of SEA in France, at different periods. Three case studies are presented, based on secondary sources for two of them and on the author’s own research for the third one. The author choses the concept of organizational field, defined through its actors, how they interact, what they do, what tools and practices are being developed and what regulations are being enacted.

Findings

If each case is different in terms of context and outcome, all three present common characteristics which characterize the underlying forces which shaped SEA in France: mainly the role played by elites both in government and industry, an ability for industry to present its interests as the interests of France with an impact on the international standardization of some tools and regulatory issues such as product labeling. The French scene is dominated by engineers, characterized by quantitative tools which “measure” environmental performance, in line with the culture of the French elite for which mathematics are a tool for action and problem-solving. In a certain way this “depoliticized” environmental questions and made them a question of optimization more than a question of politics.

Practical implications

Because of the specific context in which some tools emerge, they may not be transferable to other countries without important changes.

Social implications

The focus on problem solving through quantitative tools to make the most rational decision, and the claim by the engineering profession to be in the best position to do so, is not a focus on accountability. This may be part of the reason why the accounting profession is not as involved as in other countries.

Originality/value

This paper also shows how France has been both a local field of SEA production, when it comes to developing quantitative tools, with occasional global reach, and an importer of global standards and SEA concepts which originated from the Anglo-Saxon word, when it comes to reporting. More generally, it is also a good illustration of how the development of a “local” organizational field is congruent with the characteristic of its national environment.

Details

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, vol. 9 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2040-8021

Keywords

Content available
Article
Publication date: 4 September 2018

Delphine Gibassier, Jonathan Maurice and Charles Cho

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Abstract

Details

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, vol. 9 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2040-8021

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