Participatory budgeting at a
community level in Porto Alegre:
a Bourdieusian interpretation
Laure Célérier and Luis Emilio Cuenca Botey
Accounting and Management Control Department, HEC Paris,
Jouy en Josas, France
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore how accountability practices can enable
Design/methodology/approach – The authors explore the emancipatory potential of accountability
from a Bourdieusian perspective. The study is informed by a two-month socio-ethnographic study of
the participatory budgeting (PB) process in Porto Alegre (Brazil). The field study enabled us to observe
accountability and participatory practices, conduct 18 semi-structured interviews with councillors,
and analyze survey data gathered from budgeting participants.
Findings – The paper demonstrates how PB both strengthened the dominants in the Porto Alegrense
political field and changed the game played in this field; was characterized by accountability practices
favouring the election of councillors with distinctive capitals, who were “dominated-dominants
dominating the dominated”; brought emancipatory perspectives to councillors and, by doing so,
opened the path to social change but also widened the gap with ordinary participants.
Research limitations/implications – The research supports Shenkin and Coulson’s (2007) thesis
by demonstrating that accountability, when associated with participative democracy, can create
substantial social change. Significantly, by investigating the emancipatory potential of accountability,
the authors challenge the often taken-for-granted assumption in critical research that accountability
reinforces asymmetrical power relations, and the authors explore alternative accountability practices.
Doing so enables us to rethink the possibilities of accountability and their practical implications.
Originality/value – The authors study the most emblematic example of participatory democracy
in South America; and the authors use Bourdieu’s theoretical framework to approach accountability at
a community level.
Keywords Brazil, Democracy, Bourdieu, Accountability, Emancipation, Participatory budgeting
Paper type Research paper
Problematising accounting for
Michael John Jones
University of Bristol, Bristol, UK, and
Jill Frances Solomon
Henley Business School, University of Reading, Henley-on-Thames, UK
Purpose – This paper seeks to problematise “accounting for biodiversity” and to provide a framework
for analysing and understanding the role of accounting in preserving and enhancing biodiversity on
Planet Earth. The paper aims to raise awareness of the urgent need to address biodiversity loss and
extinction and the need for corporations to discharge accountability for their part in the current
biodiversity crisis by accounting for their biodiversity-related strategies and policies. Such accounting is,
it is believed, emancipatory and leads to engendering change in corporate behaviour and attitudes.
Design/methodology/approach – The authors reviewed the literature relating to biodiversity
across a wide array of disciplines including anthropology, biodiversity, ecology, finance, philosophy,
and of course, accounting, in order to build an image of the current state of biodiversity and the role
which accounting can and “should” play in the future of biodiversity.
Findings – It is found that the problems underlying accounting for biodiversity fall into four broad
categories: philosophical and scientific problems, accountability problems, technical accounting
problems, and problems of accounting practice.
Practical implications – Through establishing a framework problematising biodiversity, a
roadmap is laid out for researchers and practitioners to navigate a route for future research and
policymaking in biodiversity accounting. It is concluded that an interdisciplinary approach to
accounting for biodiversity is crucial to ensuring effective action on biodiversity and for accounting for
biodiversity to achieve its emancipatory potential.
Originality/value – Although there is a wealth of sustainability reporting research, there is hardly
any work exploring the role of accounting in preserving and enhancing biodiversity. There is no
research exploring the current state of accounting for biodiversity. This paper summarises the current
state of biodiversity using an interdisciplinary approach and introduces a series of papers devoted to
the role of accounting in biodiversity accepted for this AAAJ special issue. The paper also provides a
framework identifying the diverse problems associated with accounting for biodiversity.
Keywords Accounting for biodiversity,Emancipatory, Interdisciplinary, Problematisation,Accounting,
Paper type General review
Attaining legitimacy by employee
information in annual reports
Pamela Kent and Tamara Zunker
Bond Business School, Bond University, Gold Coast, Australia
Purpose – The purpose of this study is to provide evidence on the category, quantity and quality of
voluntary employee-related information Australian listed companies disclose in their annual report.
An explanation is also sought to determine whether companies adopt employee-related disclosures to
legitimise their relationship with society. Voluntary adoption of corporate governance best practice
recommendations is used as a measure of companies’ attempts to attain ex ante legitimacy. Media
agenda setting theory is used as a measure of an attempt to gain legitimacy ex post following adverse
publicity from the media.
Design/methodology/approach – The annual reports of all companies with at least one employee
listed on the Australian Stock Exchange with a 30th June balance date of 2004 are examined to identify
employee-related disclosures. This employee-related information is categorised and identified as
positive, negative or a combination of positive and negative information by three independent coders.
Ordinary least squares regression is used to explain the quantity of disclosure with a corporate
governance score and number of adverse newspaper articles included as experimental variables.
Findings – Adopting voluntary corporate governance mechanisms is associated with the quantity of
voluntary annual report employee-related disclosures. Higher levels of adverse publicity are also
significantly associated with higher quantities of employee-related disclosures. The quality of these
disclosures is questioned because 124 companies had adverse publicity relating to employees and only
two of these companies reported any negative employee-related disclosures. Few companies from the
whole sample reported any negative information relating to their employees in their annual report,
with 98 per cent of companies reporting positive news or no news.
Originality/value – Most previous social responsibility research has focused on environmental
disclosures. This study is original because it focuses on employee-related disclosures. Honest,
transparent employee disclosures are an international corporate governance recommendation by the
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and studies have not previously tested the
relation between reporting recommended corporate governance mechanisms and employee-related
disclosures in annual reports.
Keywords Employee disclosures, Corporate governance, Adverse publicity, Annual reports, Australia
Paper type Research paper
Auditor obligations in an evolving
Julie-Anne Tarr and Janet Mack
School of Accountancy, Queensland University of Technology,
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to look at auditor obligations to their clients and potentially
to third parties such as investors, with a focus on the quality of financial disclosure in an evolving
Design/methodology/approach – The article outlines and compares established and emerging
trends relative to information disclosure and contractual performance in parallel contexts where
information asymmetry exists. In particular, this article considers the disclosure regime that has
evolved in the insurance industry to address the substantial imbalance in the level of knowledge
possessed by the insured in comparison to the prospective insurer. Abductive reasoning is used to
identify causal constructs that explain the data pattern from which the theorised potential for judicial
revision of the interpretation of “true and fair” in line with “good faith” in legal regulation is derived.
Findings – The authors conclude that there is little doubt that a duty of good faith in relation to
auditor-company contractual dealings and potentially a broader good faith duty to third parties such
as investors in companies may be on the horizon.
Originality/value – In the context of stated objectives by organisations such as the International
Federation of Accountants to reconcile ethical and technical skills in the wake of the global financial
crisis, there is an increased need to rebuild public and investor confidence in the underpinning
integrity of financial reporting. This paper offers a perspective on one way to achieve this by
recognising the similarities in the information asymmetry relationships in the insurance industry and
how the notion of “good faith” in that relationship could be useful in the audit situation.
Keywords Auditing, Insurance companies, Financial reporting, Good faith, True and fair
Paper type Research paper
ISO auditing and the construction
of trust in auditor independence
Dogui Kouakou and Olivier Boiral
Department of Management, Universite´ Laval, Que´bec City, Canada, and
cole de comptabilite´, Universite´ Laval, Que´bec City, Canada
Purpose – This paper aims to examine, through a qualitative study, how auditor independence is
socially constructed within the network of individuals involved in the realization of ISO 14001 audit
engagements – ISO auditors, consultants, and managers of certified companies. The paper analysis
focuses on the sense-making strategies used by actors within the network to develop and sustain trust
(or doubt) in professional independence.
Design/methodology/approach – This study is predicated on a theoretical perspective centered on
sense-making processes and the construction of inter-subjective meanings around claims to expertise.
Interviews were conducted with 36 Canadian practitioners – including ISO auditors, managers of
certification bodies, accreditation inspectors, consultants, and corporate environmental managers – to
better understand how confidence into auditor independence is constituted in the flow of daily life
within the small group of people involved in the surroundings of ISO 14001 audit engagements.
Findings – Practitioners use a range of sense-making strategies to construct and maintain the belief
that IS0 14001 audits meet the professional requirements of auditor independence. As such, the
constitution of confidence involves stereotyping, distancing, storytelling and procedural mechanisms
that are collectively mobilized in the production of a culture of comfort surrounding the concept of
Originality/value – Through interviews with a range of actors involved in the achievement of ISO
۱۴۰۰۱ audits, the study provides insight into the production of meaning related to one of the chief
claims surrounding auditing expertise, that of professional independence. This paper also points to a
lack of self-criticism in the ISO auditing community since practitioners seem disinclined to adopt a
reflective attitude of professional skepticism towards the claim of auditor independence.
Keywords ISO 14001, Auditor independence, Construction of meaning, Environmental auditing,
Paper type Research paper