Accountability and giving
Informal reporting practices in a religious
Department of Accounting and Finance, Monash University,
Gippsland Campus Churchill, Churchill, Australia, and
School of Applied Media and Social Sciences, Monash University,
Gippsland Campus Churchill, Churchill, Australia
Purpose – Focusing on Sanitarium, a commercial-charity operating as a department of a church, the
paper aims to use Mashaw’s taxonomy to examine this organisation’s informal reporting in the context
Design/methodology/approach – The paper adopts a case study approach and draws on data
gathered from primary and secondary archival sources, interviews with key informants, and reports in
the public media.
Findings – The paper examines Sanitarium, a hybrid organisation that has made informal account
giving its primary means of reporting to constituents and the general public. It reveals that while the
informal reporting blurs the boundaries of reporting regimes, the informal account always discloses
something more, has the spirit of accountability and provides insight into the organisation that
otherwise would not be accessible. The paper shows the usefulness of applying Mashaw’s framework
to examine the accountability practices of organisations in the third sector.
Originality/value – The paper extends understanding into the nature of accountability by
highlighting the contribution of informal account giving, the role of stakeholder perceptions in
determining what counts as accountability, and the benefits of using a framework that can be applied
to all commercial organisations, including faith organisations. The paper focuses on an area of study
that has been acknowledged as under-researched and contributes to the knowledge of accountability in
Keywords Accountability, Informal reporting, Religious organizations, Mashaw’s taxonomy,
Seventh-day Adventists, Health foods, Financial reporting, Religion
Rethinking the sacred and secular
Accounting and accountability practices in the
Diocese of Ferrara (1431-1457)
Michele Bigoni and Enrico Deidda Gagliardo
Department of Economics, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy, and
Kent Business School, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK
Purpose – Informed by the work of Laughlin and Booth, this paper aims to analyze the role of
accounting and accountability practices within the fifteenth century Roman Catholic Church, more
specifically within the Diocese of Ferrara (northern Italy), in order to determine the presence of a
sacred-secular dichotomy. Pope Eugenius IV had embarked on a comprehensive reform of the Church
to counter the spreading moral corruption within the clergy and the subsequent disaffection with the
Church by many believers. The reforms were notable not only for the Pope’s determination to restore
the moral authority and power of the Church, but also for the essential contributions of “profane”
financial and accounting practices to the success of the reforms.
Design/methodology/approach – Original fifteenth century Latin documents and account books
of the Diocese of Ferrara are used to highlight the link between the new sacred values imposed by Pope
Eugenius IV’s reforms and accounting and accountability practices.
Findings – The documents reveal that secular accounting and accountability practices were not
regarded as necessarily antithetical to religious values, as would be expected by Laughlin and Booth.
Instead, they were seen to assume a role which was complementary to the Church’s religious mission.
Indeed, they were essential to its sacred mission during a period in which the Pope sought to arrest the
moral decay of the clergy and reinstate the Church’s authority.
Research limitations/implications – The paper shows that the sacred-secular dichotomy cannot
be considered as a priori valid in space and time. There is also scope for examining other Italian
dioceses where there was little evidence of Pope Eugenius’ reforms.
Originality/value – The paper presents a critique of the sacred-secular divide paradigm by
considering an under-researched period and a non-Anglo Saxon context.
Keywords Sacred-secular divide, Roman Catholic Church, Religion, Pastoral visit,
Accounting and accountability practices, Management
The practice turn in
A study into current practices in two
Australian commonwealth departments
Centre of Accounting, Governance and Sustainability, School of Commerce,
University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia, and
Research School of Accounting and Business Information Systems,
College of Business and Economics, The Australian National University,
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore environmental reporting in the Australian
Commonwealth public sector through the focus on departments with a primary responsibility for
social and environmental issues.
Design/methodology/approach – The research moves beyond the existing theorisation for
environmental reporting through a legitimacy theory perspective and adopts Bourdieu’s theory of
practice. The practices of the two selected departments for this study are assessed through interviews
and documentary data.
Findings – The findings suggest that the practice of environmental reporting in a research context
moves beyond legitimacy considerations with the internal context being critical in explaining current
practices. It is in this regard that the theoretical perspective provides useful insights in understanding
environmental reporting in the Australian commonwealth public sector.
Research limitations/implications – The paper calls for further studies that go beyond
desk-based analysis of environmental disclosure and utilise field studies and varying theoretical
perspectives which focus on the practices that lead to the production of environmental reporting via
Practical implications – This paper provides insights into how internal actors influence the
practice of public sector environmental reporting which has practical implications for the development
and enhancement of environmental reporting in many jurisdictions.
Originality/value – The paper develops a theoretical perspective for environmental accounting that
provides a comprehensive account of environmental reporting in a specific context. This approach
could be utilised in different contexts and contributes towards extending the existing theorisation for
Keywords Environmental reporting, Public sector, Legitimacy, Field, Capital, Habitus,
Public sector accounting, Financial reporting, Australia
Paper type Research paper
Freedom and responsibility for
French universities: from global
steering to local management
Marie Boitier and Anne Rivie`re
Department of Management Control, Accounting and Auditing,
Toulouse Business School, University of Toulouse, Toulouse, France
Purpose – This paper seeks to extend the understanding of how formal management control
systems (MCSs) contribute to the construction of performance management systems (PMSs) in the
French higher education (HE) sector.
Design/methodology/approach – Empirical data are gathered both at the global level and at the
local (university) level through an in-depth case study. This allows a dynamic multi-level analysis
based on a neo-institutional framework.
Findings – This article shows how formal MCSs contribute to the institutionalisation of a wider PMS
at the global level of the HE sector. The social context then has a determining influence on universities,
through the diffusion of values and norms drained by formal MCSs, calling into question the
effectiveness of the autonomy supposed to be given to universities under the new PMS. Moreover,
within universities, the complex interactions between MCS and PMS resulting from learning, political
interactions and conflicts of values, lead to still uncertain outcomes.
Research limitations/implications – The paper focuses on one main case-study, which is still
undergoing change. Analysis could be reinforced by further longitudinal and comparative research.
Social implications – Steering organisations within a framework where the State defines strategic
priorities requires both appropriate performance indicators and a dialogue allowing objectives to be
shared at both the social and local levels.
Originality/value – Institutionalisation of MCSs and accountability are discussed in the specific
French context of cultural centralisation.
Keywords Universities, Management control system, Budgets, Autonomy, NPM,
Performance indicators, Control
Paper type Research paper
Biodiversity reporting in
Dennis van Liempd and Jacob Busch
Department of Entrepreneurship and Relationship Management,
University of Southern Denmark, Kolding, Denmark
Purpose – This paper aims to suggest that companies have ethical reasons to report about
biodiversity issues and to investigate whether companies act on these reasons by examining the extent
of biodiversity reporting in Denmark.
Design/methodology/approach – For the first purpose, desk research was conducted using
consequentialist ethics, while for the second purpose, data were gathered from the 2009-2011 annual
reports, CSR-type reports and homepages of 24 Danish large-cap companies.
Findings – Philosophically, it is shown that biodiversity preservation and reporting is an ethical
issue, even on the assumption that biodiversity does not possess intrinsic value. Empirically, it is
shown that Danish companies score poorly overall, both quantitatively and qualitatively, with regards
to reporting on biodiversity.
Research limitations/implications – Even though the importance of biodiversity can be justified
on different assumptions, biodiversity reporting is under-researched offering potential for future
research on a globally important issue.
Practical implications – Justifying the preservation of biodiversity from an instrumental
viewpoint might convince accounting audiences that are sceptical of normative ethical
argumentation based on intrinsic value. The relative lack of biodiversity reporting in Denmark
shows the need for the State and accounting standard setters to address this issue together with
business and other stakeholders.
Originality/value – Few studies theorize on why there is a need for environmental reporting. Those
that do are based on non-instrumental considerations. This paper gives philosophical arguments for
biodiversity reporting normally outside the scope of accounting. It emphasizes how even those who
deny that biodiversity has intrinsic value are morally obliged to account for biodiversity. The
argument also provides novel reasons for why thinking about discount rates should be governed by
pure preference considerations. Empirically, this is only the second paper examining biodiversity
reporting and the first about the Danish context.
Keywords Biodiversity, Biodiversity reporting, Environmental reporting, Denmark, Ethical need,
Discount rate, Accounting, Sustainable development, Social responsibility
Paper type Research paper