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Management accountants' perception of their role in accounting for sustainable development: An exploratory study

Abstract
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the perceptions that management accountants have of their roles in the accounting for sustainable development in their organisations. A sample of small-medium and large New Zealand businesses were approached for this research to canvas their opinions on their involvement as management accountants in this role. The study also examined whether there were any barriers to management accountants becoming engaged in sustainable development activities in their businesses. This study therefore extends the limited literature on management accountants’ role and involvement in accounting for sustainable development by the organisations that employ them. Design/methodology/approach – The paper draws arguments from prior literature to identify the roles that management accountants play in accounting for sustainable development. The perceptions that management accountants have of their roles in accounting for sustainable development are examined by conducting interviews and surveys of management accountants from various organisations in New Zealand. The study is informed by legitimacy theory. Findings –Management accountants of small-medium organisations in New Zealand play a limited role in accounting for sustainable development, compared to management accountants of larger organisations. The correlation between the type of organisation and their overall goals for achieving sustainable development are closely linked with the roles the organisations’ management accountants play in accounting for sustainable development. Research limitations/implications – This research is limited as it is only an exploratory study with a small sample of small-medium and large businesses in New Zealand. The influence of management accountants is analysed in order to explain how management accounting practices are translated at organisational level. There is a need for greater acceptance by senior management of the role management accountants could play in accounting for sustainable development. Practical implications – This paper may help management accountants, of both small- medium and larger organisations, to advance accounting for sustainable development within their organisations by actively engaging with the issues that have deterred such advancement. The paper is significant to teaching as well as to practitioners as the paper identifies a perceived lack of a role for management accountants in accounting for sustainable development. As such questions are raised as to whether accounting education provides an environmentally literate management accountant. The pre-existing literature and the empirical evidence gathered from this paper suggest that further research is needed to better understand the emerging roles of management accountants as facilitators of decision making within organisations concerned with issues of sustainable development. Originality/value – This paper provides a review of current debates and positions of accounting for sustainable development as well as the barriers management accountants face in getting engaged in accounting for sustainable development initiatives.
Type
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Series
Citation
Date
2014-04-08
Publisher
Emerald Group Publishing
Degree
Supervisors
Rights
This is an author’s accepted version of an article published in Pacific Accounting Review. © 2014 Emerald.