Accounting information and the accounting function in sustainability management

Project: Research

Project participants


The issue of the environment became topical in public discourse in the UK and internationally around 1990, and this was quickly followed by concern over the implications of this for business. More recently this has extended into a broader concern which includes also social and economic issues of sustainability (sometimes referred to as the 'triple bottom line') and corporate responsibility generally. The effects on companies are several, including the need to comply with legislation and regulations, influences through the marketplace on costs and revenues, and reputational. The risks for companies who fail to recognise and respond appropriately may be not only of non-compliance and to reputation, but in the long-run also to profitability and corporate value in conventional financial terms too. The focal point of the project is to explore the uses made by companies in their management of sustainability-related accounting information; the following research questions will be addressed:

* What information is generated?
* Who is using it, and for what purposes?
* Who is generating and providing this information?
* Is such information part of conventional information management and accounting?
* Are there country- specific and industry-specific differences?

The research will also aim to identify examples of current good practice by leading companies which may provide a basis subsequently to develop recommendations and guidance on the use of sustainability accounting by corporate management, by comparing several organisations from different sectors and countries. The project will carry out an exploratory study on examples of current practice of the use of accounting information and the involvement of the accounting function by companies in supporting their responses to the sustainability challenges which they have identified for their businesses.

The proposed research will extend from ICAEW's previous work on sustainability accounting, "Sustainability: the role of accountants" (2004), which elaborated the potential linkages between corporate sustainability and the work of professionally qualified accountants.
The results of this research are likely to benefit both academics and practitioners. Academics in the field of accounting, sustainability management, and in particular sustainability accounting, will find several starting points for further research. The results of the exploratory research will add empirical evidence to the largely normative research in that field, and stimulate in-depth analysis and empirical studies on certain findings.
The outcome of the project will be valuable for practitioners as it will provide insights into the current practice of and the professions involved in sustainability accounting, and the opportunities which are likely to be available to extend the roles and responsibilities of accountants.


Research outputs