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Article
Publication date: 24 August 2022

Max Baker, Rob Gray and Stefan Schaltegger

This article explores and contrasts the views of two influential research projects within the social and environmental accounting space. Both projects advocate for…

Abstract

Purpose

This article explores and contrasts the views of two influential research projects within the social and environmental accounting space. Both projects advocate for sustainability. The first here referred to as the Critical Social and Environmental Accounting Project (CSEAP), was developed and championed by Rob Gray and calls for immediate radical structural change. The second one is called the Pragmatic Sustainability Management Accounting Project (PSMAP), championed by Stefan Schaltegger, and advocates for an entrepreneurial process of creating radical solutions in joint stakeholder collaboration over time.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper is the culmination of a decade-long debate between Gray and Schaltegger as advocates of CSEAP and PSMAP, respectively. Specifically, the paper explores the differences and agreements between CSEAP and PSMAP on whether and how companies should pursue sustainability and the role of accounting in these efforts. The paper focusses on critical issues that exemplify the tension in their views: general goals, the role of structure and agency and how to creating change and transformation.

Findings

The article contrasts CSEAP's uncompromising antagonising approach to accountability and fundamental systemic change with PSMAP's pragmatic approach to sustainability accounting with its management and entrepreneurship-orientated approach to change and unwavering support for transformative managers on the front lines. Despite their apparent differences, the paper also outlines areas of agreement between these two positions and how accounting and sustainability can move forward.

Research limitations/implications

The debate tries to reconcile language and conceptional differences in the social and environmental accounting (SEA) and sustainability management accounting (SMA) communities to reduce confusion in the research space over what sustainability is for organisations and what role accounting plays in this. The authors hope that the tension between the different positions outlined in this paper generates new insights and positions on the topic.

Practical implications

While the two views explored in this paper are primarily incompatible, each generates implications for practice, research and education. Debates like this are crucial to moving from discursive disagreement to creating a tolerant and robust foundation for moving forward and achieving much-needed sustainable transitions in the economy and society.

Originality/value

The authors offer shared understandings, points of continuing disagreement and alternative views on the nature of sustainability. The debate forges a bridge of understanding where both sides can learn from each other.

Details

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

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 11 April 2016

Tiffany Cheng Han Leung and Rob Gray

This paper aims to explore the extent to which social responsibility and social and environmental reporting and disclosure have any relevance in the (so-called…

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to explore the extent to which social responsibility and social and environmental reporting and disclosure have any relevance in the (so-called) controversial industries. The literature is ambivalent over the extent to which it is expected to see corporate social responsibility and social disclosure employed as active legitimation strategies. However, the apparent importance of “responsible gambling” in both the literature and in gambling industry initiatives suggests, at least a priori, that the international industry is active in some degree of legitimation.

Design/methodology/approach

This exploratory study examines the social and environmental disclosures of a sample of large companies in each of five countries over a three-year period using conventional content analysis.

Findings

The results are unexpected in that, although disclosure is dominated by employee- and director-related, other areas of social and environmental – and indeed economic – activity feature hardly at all. There is remarkably little disclosure around responsible gambling.

Research limitations/implications

The paper is a research note based on a range of samples across five countries and is, inevitably, tentative. The implications, albeit tentative, include the need to re-theorise corporate disclosure, especially in the controversial sectors.

Originality/value

The note adds to the accounting literature concerned with the controversial industries and contributes to the scarce social accounting research in the gambling sector. The authors hope that the research will be useful in guiding more focused and in-depth studies into this increasingly important and counter-intuitive area.

Article
Publication date: 19 March 2018

Rob Gray and Markus J. Milne

The purpose of this paper is to offer a counter-narrative to accounts of specific species extinction. The authors place humanity’s ways of organising at the core and…

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to offer a counter-narrative to accounts of specific species extinction. The authors place humanity’s ways of organising at the core and recognise that only fundamental re-appraisal of humanity’s taken-for-granted narratives offers hope for biodiversity and sustainability. The authors challenge producers of accounts of all sorts to reconsider the context and level of resolution of their accounts. The authors argue that humankind is the root cause of most (if not all) current species extinctions; that such extinctions represent one reason why humanity might itself be threatened with extinction; and why human extinction might be a good thing. The authors need to imagine other, better, futures.

Design/methodology/approach

The piece is an essay which assembles a wide range of literature in order to support its contentions.

Findings

There are many individual accounts of species which explore the (albeit very serious) symptoms of a problem without, the authors maintain, examining the systematic source of the problem. The source problem is western mankind’s organisation and somewhat taciturn conception of humanity. There is a lack of accounts offering new possibilities.

Research limitations/implications

The piece is an essay and, consequently, limited to the quality of the argument presented. The essay suggests that the principal implications relate to how producers of counter-accounts frame their construction of accounts and how accounts of species extinction need to be more cognisant of underlying causes.

Practical implications

Without substantial change, planetary ecology, including humanity, is very seriously threatened. Imagining a plausible future is a most practical act of faith.

Social implications

The essay suggests that as accountants the authors might think to approach the counter-accounts with a lower level of resolution: one that is directed towards a more challenging notion of what it is to be human.

Originality/value

Whilst building upon the growing sophistication in the understanding of (new) accounts and responding to the emerging literatures on biodiversity, species extinction and utopian vision the authors offer what the authors believe to be a unique suggestion in the accounting literature about the extinction of mankind.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 31 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 11 April 2016

Tehmina Khan and Rob Gray

This paper is prompted by an analysis of accounting and accounting education by Lawrence et al. (2013) in this journal. In that paper, the authors use the theory of…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper is prompted by an analysis of accounting and accounting education by Lawrence et al. (2013) in this journal. In that paper, the authors use the theory of autopoiesis to articulate and explore, what they argue is, an inappropriate conservatism in accounting. This aims to develop the insights offered by Lawrence et al., to advance the understanding of autopoiesis and to use the insights from the theory of autopoiesis to try and confront (what we see as) the resistance shown in business and accounting to the possibilities of a more substantive sustainability agenda.

Design/methodology/approach

The essay takes its departure point as the paper by Lawrence et al. and uses the theory of autopoiesis as a metaphorical lens through which to re-examine accounting, business and educational practice with respect to sustainability.

Findings

This paper depart somewhat from Lawrence et al.’s arguments and inferences but broadly supports their contentions that accounting and accounting education are autopoietic. Some advances are offered to the theory and some issues for future research are briefly speculated upon. The analysis succeeds in highlighting that the accounting, business and educational systems may well be protecting their “cores” but are doing so by ignoring crucial and life-threatening information. In autopoietic terms, the sub-systems are behaving as closed systems that are causing self-harm and are being psychopathic. It is speculate that accounting educators may be, themselves, acting as autopoietic persons.

Research limitations/implications

The essay, in identifying some of the empirical weaknesses inherent in the theory of autopoiesis in a social science context, suggests that the persuasiveness or otherwise of the theory will probably lie in the extent to which a reader finds the heuristic plausible and not in any easily testable propositions. The implications, if this limitation is accepted, are, broadly, that accounting and accounting education are acting psychopathically in the face of (arguably) life-threatening data.

Practical Implications

There are extensive implications for research and policy but only those for education are explored here.

Social Implications

If the analysis is persuasive, the implication for engagement with the exigencies of sustainability is profound and disturbing.

Originality/value

The paper has two primary purposes: to challenge and develop debate around Lawrence et al.’s arguments and to use autopoiesis as one explanation for the inertia around sustainability, business and accounting. The paper extends the theory of autopoiesis as articulated in accounting to embrace both the issue of nesting systems and the autopoietic person. The combination of these contributions is combined with Lawrence et al., in offering a substantive challenge to accounting educators: albeit a substantively different one than those authors offered. It is these matters of difference that ultimately challenge the authors’ roles as educators, researchers and accountants.

Article
Publication date: 1 November 2006

James Guthrie and Christina Boedker

The purpose of this paper is to introduce alternative perspectives on “new” business reporting models as they appear in the “thought pieces” in this special themed section of AAAJ.

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to introduce alternative perspectives on “new” business reporting models as they appear in the “thought pieces” in this special themed section of AAAJ.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper employs a literature based analysis and critique. The paper is primarily a discussion paper.

Findings

There are several research issues examined in the papers in this special theme section which point to the need for researchers to reflect on their motivation, use of theory and values to ensure academic work is making a genuine contribution.

Research limitations/implications

“New” models of business reporting are experimental and could be explored in greater depth in future studies.

Originality/value

The papers contribute to the growing debate on “value” and key underlying issues associated with the emergence of “new” accounting and reporting practices. Through this process of reflection, hidden assumptions can be exposed, “new” visibilities explored, and competing dilemmas opened up.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 19 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 1 November 2001

Leigh Holland

The Centre for Social and Environmental Accounting Research has been running Summer Schools since 1992, when the first was arranged as part of the British Accounting…

Abstract

The Centre for Social and Environmental Accounting Research has been running Summer Schools since 1992, when the first was arranged as part of the British Accounting Association’s Summer School programme to encourage new researchers to embark on a research career. Whilst the programme has developed over the ten schools so far held, the ethos has remained the same ‐ encouragement and stimulation in a co‐operative, academic environment. The summer schools have given new and experienced researchers the opportunity to present their ideas ‐ whether as completed papers or as some form of work in progress ‐ to a sympathetic audience in tune with the general themes presented. Mostly, the research forms part of the more general critical approach to accounting research, and participants are more comfortable both with presenting and critiquing ideas using a critical framework. This involves exposing ’conventional’ accounting wisdom and using different frameworks with which to examine what transformations may take place if other perspectives are applied. Having said that, there is a place to air research carried out from a managerialist outlook too, so that a reformist position may also be taken.

Details

Journal of Applied Accounting Research, vol. 6 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0967-5426

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 28 July 2021

David Collison

This paper aims to pay tribute to Rob Gray’s achievements at the University of Dundee in the 1990s – a significant period in the development of the field of social and…

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to pay tribute to Rob Gray’s achievements at the University of Dundee in the 1990s – a significant period in the development of the field of social and environmental accounting research.

Design/methodology/approach

Memories and reflections.

Findings

A personal perception of Rob’s drive, motivations and generosity of spirit.

Originality/value

A portrayal of someone who deserves to be remembered for what he accomplished, and for the collegiate and supportive example he set for others in pursuing social and environmental awareness and responsibility.

Details

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, vol. 12 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2040-8021

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 2 June 2022

Charles H. Cho, Tiphaine Jérôme and Jonathan Maurice

This paper aims to conduct an analysis of management research based on impact measures, with a focus on the accounting discipline and the environment theme. Using author…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to conduct an analysis of management research based on impact measures, with a focus on the accounting discipline and the environment theme. Using author and journal data as units of analysis, this study seek to determine the representation of environmental accounting researchers among the most cited accounting authors and the consideration given to environmental issues in the impact assessment of management journals.

Design/methodology/approach

This study collects and quantitatively analyzes the publications and citations of the 50 most cited accounting authors and run a principal component analysis on a collection of journal-centered indicators and rankings.

Findings

This study finds that – among the most cited accounting authors – environmental accounting researchers hold a relatively influential position although their research is mainly published in non-top-tier accounting journals. This study also documents that some environment-themed journals suffer from significant disadvantages in peer-reviewed journal rankings.

Practical implications

Environmental accounting researchers are likely to disseminate their research in other media than in top-tier journals. This may have an impact on the academic viability of this field.

Social implications

Despite their strong connection to societal issues, some research themes could become understudied if journal rankings are not able to consider publication outlets in a more comprehensive way. There is a strong need for a broader consideration of scientific production, particularly in relation to its overall societal impact.

Originality/value

To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first time an empirical analysis, combining author and journal data and documenting such findings, has been presented for publication. This study means to provide some descriptive insights into where environmental accounting researchers and environment-themed journals stand.

Details

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, vol. 13 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2040-8021

Keywords

Content available
Article
Publication date: 23 October 2009

James Guthrie

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Abstract

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 22 no. 8
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Article
Publication date: 1 August 1997

Rob Gray, Colin Dey, Dave Owen, Richard Evans and Simon Zadek

Addresses three related, though not entirely congruent, aims. Seeks, first, to initiate moves towards a “normative theory” ‐ a conceptual framework ‐ for the developing of…

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Abstract

Addresses three related, though not entirely congruent, aims. Seeks, first, to initiate moves towards a “normative theory” ‐ a conceptual framework ‐ for the developing of social accounting by organizations. Second, aims inductively to draw out best practice from a range of social accounting experiments, illustrated, in particular, by reference to two short cases from Traidcraft plc and Traidcraft Exchange. Third, draws from the conclusions reached in the exploration of the first two aims and attempts to identify any clear “social accounting standards” or “generally acceptable social accounting principles” which can be used to guide the new and emerging social accounting practice. Presents a number of subtexts which attempt to link back to the accounting literature’s more trenchant critiques of social accounting; to address the tension between academic theorizing and engaging with practice; to synthesize different approaches to social accounting practice; and to respond to the urgency that the recent upsurge in interest in social accounting places on the newly formed Institute of Social and Ethical Accountability. An ambitious paper which means that coverage of issues must be thinner than might typically be expected ‐ exploratory, rather than providing answer, offers a collective view from experience and encourage engagement with the rapidly evolving social accounting agenda.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 10 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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