Accounting for carbon: how organisations build reporting systems to capture greenhouse emissions

Ciccotosto, Susan Kathleen (2013) Accounting for carbon: how organisations build reporting systems to capture greenhouse emissions. PhD thesis, RMIT University.

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There is a gap in the literature in the provision of in-depth accounts of the approaches that firms take to embed new processes and procedures within their management accounting systems in reaction to external pressure (Bebbington, Brown, Frame, & Thomson, 2007; Contrafatto, 2012; Fraser, 2012). This thesis utilised two differing case studies, one organisation that was required to report its emissions under the Australian NGERS (2007) regulatory framework and one that used the regulatory framework to calculate its emissions and report them to stakeholders voluntarily.

The study had three aims: firstly, to gain an understanding of how organisations built a system to account for greenhouse gas emissions; secondly to gain an understanding of the accountant's role in the building of the system; and thirdly to examine the usefulness of Actor-Network Theory (Callon, 1986; Law, 1986; Latour, 1987) and Callon's (1986) four step process as an analytical tool. The study used a qualitative approach, collecting data through semi-structured interviews and documentary analysis.

The research found that ANT and Callon's (1986) four step process were effective tools which brought to light the following results. Individuals within both organisations utilised a different network to gain an understanding of how to account for greenhouse gas emissions to the one built to collate the data to calculate the emissions themselves. There was little evidence of negotiation within the organisation that was required to account for the emissions under a regulatory framework compared to that which reported the emissions voluntarily. Legacy systems in both organisations did not integrate with the new system and both organisations used data manually entered into a spreadsheet. In neither organisations were accountant's involved in any part of the network building process.

The present study highlighted a number of areas for further research including the following. Further research is needed into how those systems may be integrated and the conditions in which this is likely to happen such as cost/benefit analyses and commitment by senior management. The role (or not) of the accountant in the building of the network to account for emissions is emerging in the literature. Further qualitative research is needed to understand why this is so, given the expectation in the professional literature of the opposite. Further, how does this information impact upon the actual, compared with the perceived, role and engagement of the management accountant, not only in the area of accounting for greenhouse gases, but also other non-financial areas of management control systems? Finally, further research using a multiple case study approach with other theoretical and conceptual frameworks may bring to light interesting and new observations in management accounting research.

Item ID: 43706
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: management acounting change; greenhouse gas emissions; climate change; actor-network theory
Additional Information:

This thesis is openly accessible from the link to RMIT University's institutional repository above.

Date Deposited: 18 Apr 2016 23:45
FoR Codes: 15 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 1501 Accounting, Auditing and Accountability > 150106 Sustainability Accounting and Reporting @ 100%
SEO Codes: 90 COMMERCIAL SERVICES AND TOURISM > 9098 Environmentally Sustainable Commercial Services and Tourism > 909802 Management of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Commercial Services and Tourism @ 100%
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