Accounting Sustainability

Social and environmental sustainability is known to have developed from a given sub-political narrative on every unsustainable patterns of the final consumption into a known practice of governing by all institutional actors in the different contexts (Russell and Thomson, 29). Such transformation involves the problematization of organizational conduct, as a determining factor, and also the identification of subjects, as necessary actors that embed sustainability into their decision-making processes. One of the main arguments which have been made in support of embedding the interlinking of economic, social and environmental considerations within decision-making is that it would allow organizations to lay the foundations for effective corporate social, environmental, economic and ethical governance (Owen 101).

There is widespread acknowledgement and increasing regulation underpinning the notion that business and public sector organizations have environmental and social responsibilities. Corporations claim that engaging in sustainability is an important activity. Nevertheless little, if any, of this discourse is directed towards the analysis of rationalities and practices that lie behind the embedding of the interlinking economic, social and environmental considerations. Correspondingly, there seems to have been widespread acceptance within the academic literature about the conditions under which embedding sustainability into corporate decision-making is realized (with the notable exeption of Hopwood et al., 123).

Drawing upon the above points, the aim of the paper is to critically analyze the specific conditions under which corporate engagement in sustainability is enacted, maintained and transformed, through a set of regimes of practice that seek to embed the social and environmental impact of corporate actions into decision-making alongside economic impacts. The study provides theoretically informed empirical insights into the extent to which senior decision-takers frame and use sustainability accounting to foster disciplinary effects, and its potential to facilitate the governance of the self and others.

While several research studies within the accounting literature have addressed the foundation of power and the development of governable selves. Dean’s analytics of government has been rather disregarded (with the exception of Russell & Thomson, 200). It is therefore, necessary to contribute to the sustainability accounting literature by demonstrating the potential power of this overlooked but valuable theoretical framework. As sustainability is often portrayed in terms of programmatic aspirations of reform that involve the practice of training - which constitutes form of government and self-government - employing the analytics of government to analyze aspects of sustainability orientated accounting practices might be expected to provide useful insights. In addressing this objective, it is maintained that governmentality is not restricted to the state or political institutions, but is placed in a more general context that includes the corporate domain (Dean 201).

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In line with understanding the necessity of sustainability accounting, analyzing the rationales and practices that emerged during the implementation of a sustainability accounting framework within the lamb supply chain of a UK supermarket is the best example. This enables a reasonably clear overview of a relatively short UK based chain, with limited variation in external influences as would be more apparent in the context of a global supply chain. Hence the focus of research can be clearly trained on the analytics of government utilized to influence sustainability practices in the supply chain by the retailer.

Many aspects relating to the potential of supply-chain accounting to influence the buyer/supplier relationship (such as make or buy decisions, joint cost control, joint performance measurement and open book accounting) have been addressed by extant research. However, little academic research has examined the extent to which accounting for corporate social and environmental impacts is influential in governing the transition towards sustainability in the supply chain, and the role it may play in fostering disciplinary effects based upon social and environmental practices. It has been argued that these practices have the potential “to establish ‘sustainable’ norms of acceptable behavior and to divide actions into ‘sustainable’ and ‘unsustainable’ as a precursor to government intervention” (Russell and Thomson 231).

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Grocery retailing is exceedingly competitive, and economically, socially and environmentally important, representing 11% of European Union Gross Domestic Product. This makes the sector both a focus for policy and public scrutiny, and is an instance where sustainability can be regarded as highly competitive territory with associated prestigious industry awards. A growth sector in the UK despite the economic climate, the £150.8 billion grocery retailing market is dominated by a handful of multiple food retailers. These operate through supermarkets, superstores and hypermarkets. We will refer to one such organization in our case study as ‘the supermarket’, and the form more generally as ‘supermarkets’.

Managing the supply chain is a particularly important arena for supermarkets, since without a reliable source of products of consistent quality, they cannot satisfy customer expectations. Supply chains are important more generally because they are a means of enhancing organizational performance, since the chain rather than the individual organization is the level at which competitive advantage can be gained.

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As large organizations with global supply chains and often a global network of distribution outlets, the supermarkets are subject to a wide range of legal sustainability regulation. Furthermore, non-governmental organizations and the media are quick to highlight the responsibility of supermarkets in their social, environmental and economic contexts. Importantly, the assumed and actual responsibilities of supermarket chains are not restricted to their own head office, retail and distribution operations. Supermarkets also have a substantial degree of extended responsibility for the activities of their many and varied supply chains. This is particularly true in terms of the growing ‘own brand’ products segment, where the food retailer is intricately involved with production and the supply process itself.

In line with sustainability accounting in the United Kingdom, there are issues that may create chaos in the business sector. When looking at the specific example of the supermarkets:

Sustainability accounting is generally geared towards providing a better life for the people.

Another good example is the predecessor to the renowned Alberta GPI accounts that was referred to as the Yukon Sustainable Progress Indicator system. It was developed for the famous Yukon Council on the basis of the Economy and also the Environment for measuring and reporting on all aspects of the state of Yukon’s progress, mainly towards sustainable development. The indicators found were explicitly aligned mainly with key policy goals and also objectives of the renowned Yukon government hence providing a very comprehensive portrait of the economic, social and also environmental well-being.

From the given SPI accounts, a “triple bottom line” greatly expressed as a major quantitative performance index for the needed environment, economy and also society and a monetized net sustainable well-being of the estimate could be eventually derived. The SPI accounts would also be used to widely track progress in line with the YCEE and the Yukon Government’s goals as well as gearing towards monitoring the overall and desired well-being.


Excellent market value has always had strong positive effect on all firms’ survival. Executive vision for any long--term, accounting efficiency and experience, corporate governance culture, and also business environment always change positively relating to five elements of any sustainable accounting. Organization--stakeholder relationships usually positively moderate the known relationships between the transparency accounting mindset and also the outstanding stakeholder acceptance. The organization-stakeholder relationships generally positively moderate the existing relationships between all human capital disclosure and also motivational employee commitment. It also moderates the known relationships between the human capital disclosure and also outstanding stakeholder acceptance. Sustainability accounting is, therefore, a great policy for all companies to embrace.

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