حسابداری اجتماعی و زیست محیطی ، تغییرات سازمانی و حسابداری مدیریت: یک مشاهده پروکسوال
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|10320||2013||17 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Management Accounting Research, Volume 24, Issue 4, December 2013, Pages 349–365
Consistent with calls for in-depth studies of social and environmental accounting and reporting (SEAR) intervention (Bebbington, 2007, Fraser, 2012 and Contrafatto, 2012), our paper focuses on the interrelationship between organisational change and SEAR practices, as well as the involvement of management accounting in such organisational dynamics. Drawing insight from both Laughlin (1991) and Burns and Scapens’ (2000) theoretical frameworks, we explore the processes of change through which SEAR practices become elevated to strategising status, in the context of broader organisational and extra-organisational developments, but we also illuminate how institutionalised assumptions of profit-seeking limit the extent to which broader sustainability concerns become infused into day-to-day business practice. Our paper highlights the importance of management accounting in facilitating and shaping the cumulative path of SEAR practices (and sustainability more generally); however, we also heed caution against uncritical reliance upon conventional management accounting tools. The following paper extends our understanding of SEAR practices as cumulative process over time, an awareness of the potential limits to such developments in profit-seeking organisations, and stresses a need to be circumspect when involving management accounting.
“[…] the current economic crisis is putting enormous pressure on the functioning of management accounting systems in most organizations in the world […] Strategies are […] being constantly recast, illustrating in the process the importance of being strategic rather than merely having a strategy. Ad hoc analyses of a multitude of different aspects of the economic functioning of the organization are becoming a form of standard practice. Management accounting is moving to operating in continuous time. In these and many other ways economic information flows are assuming an ever greater salience in the management of organizational affairs” (Hopwood, 2009a, pp. 799–800). It is well documented that management accounting information could play a fundamental role in the progress of the corporate initiatives towards sustainable development (Thomson, 2007). Management accounting, as a primary source of information within organisations, is paramount to the diffusion of social and environmental accounting and reporting (SEAR) practices and sustainability know-how. Its tools and techniques underpin the means by which tomorrow's organisations define, measure and both internally and externally report their social and environmental impact; and the role of a management accountant is thus critically important in this respect. As the above quotation suggests, management accounting is becoming increasingly complex, fluid and integrated within broader organisational and extra-organisational processes; there is, it seems, a growing demand in business and society for information. An important aspect of these developments is the interplay between management accounting and sustainability-related issues (including sustainability accounting and reporting); yet very little is known about such interplay (Thomson, 2007). Today's organisations are increasingly open to pressures to be more socially and environmentally responsible when they conduct their business. Accounting and reporting on social and environmental aspects has become common practice for most leading organisations (KPMG, 2011). ‘Being and acting’ towards sustainable development, at least as it has been defined by many organisations, has been elevated to a higher tier of managerial concerns. That is, nowadays sustainability issues appear to be part of an organisation's strategic concerns. Although the term ‘sustainability’ has been debated in the organisational literature for some time, there is still ambiguity concerning its meaning (Gray, 2011) and whether (and how) this notion can be applied in the context of business and corporations ( Milne et al., 2009, Gray and Milne, 2002 and Bebbington, 2007). The varied and not always consistent terminologies used, in one way or another normally refer to the definition provided by the United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development in 1987, according to which a development is ‘sustainable’ if it is able to “meet the needs of the present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (UNWCED, 1987). Thus, sustainability represents fundamentally a ‘global’ (Gray and Milne, 2002) and ‘spatial’ concept (Bebbington, 2007) that refers to the “properties of a physical system in some physical space” and its capacity to sustain (Bebbington, 2007, p. 234). The concept of sustainability embraces notions of eco-efficiency in the use of resources; and eco-socio justice in their distribution between current generations (i.e. intra-generational) and between present and future generations (i.e. inter-generational). Some authors contend (see for example Gray and Milne, 2002) whether this notion can be applied in the context of business and corporations and, if so, what the implications for their undertakings would be. Nevertheless, business and corporations are strongly implicated in this ongoing debate and they have, and indeed they had, an important role to play in the process of developing (or not) sustainably through the adoption of more responsible behaviours, initiatives and practices,2 including management, accounting and reporting. Sustainability (accounting and) reporting3 is going through a rapid and detailed change process. From a situation of, say, just 20 years ago when a handful of organisations produced basic social and/or environmental accounts, we now see a bandwagon of organisations clamouring to be the first, best and most innovative owners of fully ‘integrated reports’ which attempt to combine social and environmental impact with the traditional accounts of financial performance. All of this requires information, usually drawn from a company's management accounting systems, and overseen by the management accountant. In turn, we also see an avalanche of new management accounting tools that, it is claimed by their advocates, provide a more effective way to bring sustainability concerns into an organisation; although, as we develop in this paper, most of these tools tend to be premised on an assumption of ‘profit-optimising outcomes’ (Scapens, 1994). Our paper aims to better understand the ongoing interrelationship(s) between SEAR and management accounting, in the context of broader organisational and extra-organisational developments. We present a longitudinal case study of why, and particularly how, an Italian multinational organisation's (MARIO, hereafter) SEAR practices evolved over time, and the organisational effects of such developments. We present this evolution as complex (change) processes over time, highlighting the cumulative interplay between accounting tools and both organisational and extra-organisational change. We observe a growing importance for management accounting, as SEAR practices (and sustainability issues more generally) assume a more significant position in an organisation's strategic planning. However, we also highlight limits to such developments, as profit-seeking ways maintain their institutionalised status as ‘the way we do things around here’. In our case study we observe the establishment of multiple SEAR-related tools and techniques and, importantly, that such practices were (at least assumed to be) consistent with dominant corporate objectives for earning economic profits. Our case study highlights complexity in the development and effects of SEAR practices over time, and stresses how such complexity needs to be understood in its broad organisational and external context. We offer insights into whether (and how and when) SEAR practices might be developed in a manner that mobilises change in organisational behaviour within a broader sustainable development agenda (Larrinaga-González and Bebbington, 2001 and Bebbington, 2007). More specifically, we are drawn to consider how, in some organisations, the engineering of SEAR practices over time can constitute part of a broader change process, whereby sustainability principles and values become integral to organisational strategies and high-level corporate values (Adams and McNicholas, 2007), as opposed to some stand-alone project. In this sense, to an extent we see some progress within MARIO, but we also see how dominant business assumptions focused on earning profits limit the degree to which sustainability can (if ever) eventually become an overriding strategic goal. We raise questions about how an organisation's attempt to ‘embed’ sustainability into routine activities needs to be viewed in the context of changeable external circumstances and other inter-linked organisational activities, but especially in the context of dominant and taken-for-granted business ways of operating. That is, although our case study presents a useful story of implementing SEAR-related innovations, we find that it is ultimately assumptions underlying the pursuit of economic profits which are dominant to the extent that SEAR changes need to be designed within rather than outside of such constraints. The approach that we adopt is ‘processual’ in the sense that we explore the development (and effects) of SEAR practices as cumulative process(es) over time ( Burns, 2000 and Burns and Scapens, 2000). Also, our methodological approach is holistic, in that rather than explore an organisation's SEAR practices and corporate sustainability strategies in isolation, we investigate their evolution in the context of broader and ongoing organisational, social and environmental context(s). Theoretically, we interpret our findings through a lens that draws from Laughlin (1991) and Burns and Scapens’ (2000) frameworks of organisational and accounting change. As we develop later, these frameworks are sufficiently complementary, and they help to inform our narrative of the interplay and dynamics between SEAR practices, organisational change and extra-organisational developments. Laughlin's (1991) framework of organisational change has been adopted by numerous scholars of social accounting (e.g., Gray et al., 1995, Larrinaga-González et al., 2001 and Fraser, 2012) to investigate whether and, if so, to what extent social/environmental accounting tools become implicated in organisational change. Rather less-used in SEAR research to date, Burns and Scapens’ (2000) framework particularly assists us in teasing out why and how the change dynamics unfold over time as they do (Fraser, 2012). Together, both theoretical frameworks present ‘a way of seeing’ the observed change processes in MARIO, which in turn allows us to construct a case study narrative. The remainder of our paper is organised as follows. In the next section we look at extant works that have previously investigated SEAR-organisational change dynamics and, in so doing, we are then able to highlight some gaps in the literature towards which this paper seeks to contribute. Following that, we articulate the theory which assists us to interpret our empirical evidence, and we briefly describe our research methods. We then present our case study and, finally, we discuss some of the key issues that are highlighted from the case study, including theoretical reflection and consideration of the future role and functioning of management accounting in SEAR practice and the pursuit of sustainability in organisations more generally.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
We have investigated the complex, interrelated and cumulative relationships between organisational change and SEAR practices, but also the role of management accounting in facilitating such organisational dynamics. Responding to calls for more in-depth studies of social/environmental accounting intervention in the corporate realm (Dey, 2007 and Fraser, 2012), we have combined Laughlin's (1991) ‘environmental disturbances’ framework and an OIE-informed perspective on organisational change (Burns and Scapens, 2000) to make sense of the unfolding dynamics between the environment, organisational and, more specifically SEAR, practices. Exogenous factors were seen to continually interplay with the intra-organisational sphere, and have ongoing potential to shape the (re-)actions of powerful agents; and the interaction between emergent SEAR-related rules and routines was influential upon, and implicated in broader organisational change (and vice-versa). Important to, and weaving throughout this ongoing process of change was the production, use and evolution of information within the case company. Information, mobilising various calculative techniques but most prominently management accounting, was necessary to visualise and make sense of the changes that were taking place, not only in terms of SEAR practices but also in broader organisational terms. However, although we witnessed technical ‘success’ in terms of implementing new SEAR practices, our case also highlighted that these sustainability-related developments needed to be carried out within an assumed profit-oriented model. Furthermore, if an important aim is to be encouraging more ‘sustainable profits’, we should be cautious about simply trying to extend conventional management accounting tools and techniques. As discussed above, future notions of ‘profit’ will not necessarily replicate ‘profits’ that persist in management accounting today; the journey forward in sustainable development will almost certainly demand changes in the practice of management accounting.