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Ideas in conflict: a case study on tensions in the process of preparing sustainability reports

Ideas in conflict: a case study on tensions in the process of preparing sustainability reports PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to understand conflicts in sustainability reporting (SR) preparation.Design/methodology/approachIn the preparation of SRs, the logic of financial rationality is often assumed to take precedence over the logic of sustainability. Based on an explorative qualitative case study of a large Swedish retailer, the paper problematizes this view. Over a reporting cycle, employees and consultants involved in the preparation process are interviewed. Conflicting ideas about SRs are identified and analyzed through the lens of institutional logics.FindingsThe study identifies five tensions in SR preparation. These tensions relate to conflicting ideas of what an SR is, how it should be written and how it should be used. Among findings, a conflict of logics can be found as the basis of at least one tension. However, tensions may also emerge within a shared sustainability logic.Research limitations/implicationsA contribution of the study is that it sets its finger on the actual fieldwork with SRs. The study shows that it is unreasonable to claim that SRs are “self-evidently” captured by management according to financial rationality. Possibly, the nature of the studied firm, a company within the pharmaceutical and health sector, implies a stronger sustainability logic than in other firms.Practical implicationsAccording to the study, the results of an SR preparation process are highly dependent on the sometimes conflicting ideas of preparers and others within the company. It is of high importance to identify and clarify such conflicting ideas already in the beginning of the process, to link the SR to the corporate social responsibility strategy of the firm, and to involve top management in the process.Originality/valueThe study identifies underlying tensions in SR preparation. It also introduces a theoretical framework that makes it possible to analyze tensions in the preparation process. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Sustainability Accounting Management and Policy Journal Emerald Publishing

Ideas in conflict: a case study on tensions in the process of preparing sustainability reports

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References (51)

Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
Copyright © Emerald Group Publishing Limited
ISSN
2040-8021
DOI
10.1108/SAMPJ-02-2015-0015
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to understand conflicts in sustainability reporting (SR) preparation.Design/methodology/approachIn the preparation of SRs, the logic of financial rationality is often assumed to take precedence over the logic of sustainability. Based on an explorative qualitative case study of a large Swedish retailer, the paper problematizes this view. Over a reporting cycle, employees and consultants involved in the preparation process are interviewed. Conflicting ideas about SRs are identified and analyzed through the lens of institutional logics.FindingsThe study identifies five tensions in SR preparation. These tensions relate to conflicting ideas of what an SR is, how it should be written and how it should be used. Among findings, a conflict of logics can be found as the basis of at least one tension. However, tensions may also emerge within a shared sustainability logic.Research limitations/implicationsA contribution of the study is that it sets its finger on the actual fieldwork with SRs. The study shows that it is unreasonable to claim that SRs are “self-evidently” captured by management according to financial rationality. Possibly, the nature of the studied firm, a company within the pharmaceutical and health sector, implies a stronger sustainability logic than in other firms.Practical implicationsAccording to the study, the results of an SR preparation process are highly dependent on the sometimes conflicting ideas of preparers and others within the company. It is of high importance to identify and clarify such conflicting ideas already in the beginning of the process, to link the SR to the corporate social responsibility strategy of the firm, and to involve top management in the process.Originality/valueThe study identifies underlying tensions in SR preparation. It also introduces a theoretical framework that makes it possible to analyze tensions in the preparation process.

Journal

Sustainability Accounting Management and Policy JournalEmerald Publishing

Published: May 2, 2017

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