Determinants of environmental accounting
practices in local entities: evidence from
Veronica P. Lima Ribeiro and Cristina Aibar-Guzman
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the extent to which Portuguese local entities have
implemented a set of environmental accounting practices, and to analyse some potential determining
factors of their use.
Design/methodology/approach – The data were collected by sending a postal questionnaire to a
sample of medium-sized and large city councils and the municipal companies belonging to those
municipalities. Three variables were considered as possible factors that drive the development of
environmental accounting practices in the local public sector.
Findings – The degree of development of environmental accounting practices in Portuguese local
entities is low. Organisational size and the degree of development of environmental management
practices are positively and statistically related to the level of development of environmental accounting
practices. However, the ﬁndings suggest that the existence of compulsory environmental accounting
standards is not positively associated with the development of environmental accounting practices by
Portuguese local entities.
Research limitations/implications – The study limits itself to Portugal and, therefore, its results could
not be applicable in other settings.
Practical implications – Portugal is experiencing a phase of development of regulatory environmental
disclosure requirements. Understanding the environmental accounting and reporting practices
currently developed by Portuguese local entities, as well as their drivers, may help regulators to develop
more suitable standards for the sector.
Originality/value – The majority of empirical studies on environmental accounting practices in public
organisations are focused largely on an Anglo-Saxon context. This paper attempts to address this gap in
the literature by providing a snapshot of the environmental accounting practices developed by
Portuguese local entities.
Keywords Local government, Accounting, Environmental management, Portugal
Paper type Research paper
Concerns about the sustainability and the protection of the natural environment have
become increasingly important issues amongst regulators, environmentalists and society in
general in many countries. In this context, similarly to what has happened in private
companies, over the last years there has been a growing emphasis amongst public
organisations on the need for addressing environmental management and, consequently,
they have gradually tended to develop and implement management practices and tools
aimed at improving their environmental performance by integrating environmental
considerations in their management decision-making processes.
On the other hand, the use of such environmental management practices poses new needs
of information for public organisations. Indeed, they need information about their
environmental impacts and the results of the initiatives developed to minimise them.
Therefore, their accounting system will have to prepare useful information to be used both for
SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY JOURNAL
VOL. 6 NO. 3 2010, pp. 404-419, Q Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1747-1117 DOI 10.1108/17471111011064771
Veronica P. Lima Ribeiro is
Assistant Professor at the
School of Management of
the Polytechnic Institute
vado and Ave, Barcelos,
Aibar-Guzman is Associate
Professor in the Faculty of
Economics and Business
Administration of the
University of Santiago de
The authors wish to thank the
anonymous referees for their
suggestions on an earlier draft
of the article.