Can the world cope with
Jollands & Akroyd
Can the world cope with square bottles?
Aim of paper:
Examine current state of SEA literature.
Less than coherent body of knowledge (Gray et al,
1995, Parker, 2005)
Focused mainly on reporting (Owen, 2008)
Little engagement with organisations (Adams &
Czariawska (2001) knowledge can be gained from:
• Logic of theory;
• Logic of representation; and
• Logic of practice.
Extant SEA Literature Practice
Logic of theory Logic of theory
Logic of representation Logic of representation
? Logic of practice
To highlight this issue we briefly examine part of the
extant SEA literature by way of a critical case
(Flyvbjerg, 2001) utilising practice theory (Actor-
network theory) to gather data.
Areas briefly reviewed:
1 - Legitimacy
SEA Literature: heavily focused on achievement
However Ball (2007, p760) notes that
accountants had no role in environmental accounting
and reporting activities in her case study.
Realm of corporate affairs / public relations - But
“in reality that’s always going to be a, you know, a fly
in the ass of the elephant” [Managing Director]
Seen as “hygiene factor”
See elements of all four of Lindblom’s (1993)
strategies at case
Suggests benefits from widening research focus beyond
reporting to all practices used to achieve legitimacy.
2 - Political Cost
SEA Literature: Minimise reported earning to avoid
potential political costs.
Extended by (among others) Lemon & Cahan
(1997) who link environmental disclosure decisions to
Use of reporting (financial + sustainability) too
imprecise a device to rely on
More effective practices used include direct
lobbying & self regulation
Supports Milne (2002) and calls into question original
political cost hypothesis.
3 - Altruism
Defined as: “selfless concern for the wellbeing of
others.”(Concise Oxford Dictionary, 2001, p40)
SEA Literature: Ball (2007) looks at environmental
accounting (reporting) as a tool used from a social
movements in organisations perspectives
See in practices of Project Manager Operations
but efforts ended with taking of job advancement
opportunity – sustainability of self takes precedence
Procurement / Logistics Manager acts out of liking
being part of “left field” thinking team
Latour (1986): many different reasons for why people
Is altruism possible? Can other motivations be
4 - Economic
SEA Literature: Economic performance can be
enhanced through sustainability focus.
Among others hidden costs (Bartolomeo et al,
2000) & “good” environmental performance gives
“good” economic performance (Al-Tuwaijri et al, 2004)
Examples include practice of waste minimisation
resulted in cost savings as less bins collected + dry
waste recycling company charges less to collect them
But economic always takes precedence:
procurement guidelines = while sustainability is a
consideration must still meet economic requirement
Suggests that in practice until black boxed that
economy is subset of society which is in turn subset of
the ecology will strong progress be realised
Our results illuminate a complex reality where elements
of the four areas of conceptual knowledge utilised in
the social and environmental accounting literature are
observed in practice but not as entirely conceptualised
in the extant literature.