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Water, water, everywhere

Water, water, everywhere PurposeThis paper aims to examine how social and environmental issues were accounted for and traded off within decision-making for Australia’s largest seawater desalination plant. This is done through an investigation of disclosures contained within key publicly available documents pertaining to the project.Design/methodology/approachThe study deploys content analysis to initially identify relevant disclosures. Themes and subthemes are based on definitions of social and environmental accounting adapted from prior research. Relevant information was used to develop “silent accounts” to identify and analyse accountability issues in the case.FindingsIt was found that a number of claims made throughout reporting were unsupported or insufficiently explained. At the same time, it is found that various forms of basic measurements used to describe social and environmental issues conveyed the rationale of decision makers. It is concluded that many of the claims were asserted rather than evidenced; yet, the manner and context of their presentation gave them the appearance of being incontestable truths. Further, it is argued that the portrayal of social and environmental issues through measurable means is emblematic of values associated with contemporary neoliberal and public sector reforms.Research limitations/implicationsThe findings and conclusions of this study are contextually bound and therefore limited to this case.Practical implicationsThis paper illustrates problems with the reporting of non-financial information and strengthens our understanding of the use of “silent accounting”. It illustrates the value of this approach to research examining accounting and accountability issues.Originality/valueThe findings contribute to the literature on social and environmental accounting by providing unique empirical analysis of non-financial disclosures within publicly available reporting. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal Emerald Publishing

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
Copyright © Emerald Group Publishing Limited
ISSN
2040-8021
DOI
10.1108/SAMPJ-12-2015-0116
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

PurposeThis paper aims to examine how social and environmental issues were accounted for and traded off within decision-making for Australia’s largest seawater desalination plant. This is done through an investigation of disclosures contained within key publicly available documents pertaining to the project.Design/methodology/approachThe study deploys content analysis to initially identify relevant disclosures. Themes and subthemes are based on definitions of social and environmental accounting adapted from prior research. Relevant information was used to develop “silent accounts” to identify and analyse accountability issues in the case.FindingsIt was found that a number of claims made throughout reporting were unsupported or insufficiently explained. At the same time, it is found that various forms of basic measurements used to describe social and environmental issues conveyed the rationale of decision makers. It is concluded that many of the claims were asserted rather than evidenced; yet, the manner and context of their presentation gave them the appearance of being incontestable truths. Further, it is argued that the portrayal of social and environmental issues through measurable means is emblematic of values associated with contemporary neoliberal and public sector reforms.Research limitations/implicationsThe findings and conclusions of this study are contextually bound and therefore limited to this case.Practical implicationsThis paper illustrates problems with the reporting of non-financial information and strengthens our understanding of the use of “silent accounting”. It illustrates the value of this approach to research examining accounting and accountability issues.Originality/valueThe findings contribute to the literature on social and environmental accounting by providing unique empirical analysis of non-financial disclosures within publicly available reporting.

Journal

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy JournalEmerald Publishing

Published: Mar 6, 2017

References