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The limits of institutional work: a field study on auditors' efforts to promote sustainability assurance in a trust society

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Details

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages30
JournalACCOUNTING, AUDITING AND ACCOUNTABILITY JOURNAL
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to enrich extant understanding of the role of both agency and context in the uptake of sustainability assurance. To this end, the authors examine auditors' attempts to promote sustainability assurance and establish it as a practice requiring the professional involvement of auditors.

Design/methodology/approach: Applying institutional work (Lawrence and Suddaby, 2006) and institutional logics (Thornton, 2002; Thornton et al., 2012) as the method theories, the authors examine interview data and a variety of documentary evidence collected in Finland, a small society characterized by social and environmental values, beliefs in functioning institutions and public trust in companies behaving responsibly.

Findings: With this study, the authors make two main contributions to extant literature. First, the authors illustrate the limits that society-level logics related to corporate social responsibility, together with the undermining or rejected institutional work of other agents, place especially on the political and cultural work undertaken by auditors. Second, the study responds to Power's (2003) call for country-specific studies by exploring a rather unique context, Finland, where societal trust in companies is arguably stronger than in many other countries and this trust appears to affect how actors perceive the need for sustainability assurance.

Originality/value: This is one of the few accounting studies that combines institutional logics and institutional work to study the uptake of a management fashion, in this case sustainability assurance.

Keywords

  • Assurance, Auditing, Institutional logics, Institutional work, Sustainability

Publication forum classification

Field of science, Statistics Finland