Changing Social and Environmental Reporting Systems

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Based on a case study of a large multinational group, this paper addresses the way in which social and environmental reporting (SER) systems were changed and the consequences and controversies associated with this change. Drawing on Power's work on the processes by which things are made auditable via underlying systems, we focus on how and why a specific programme with auditability as its ultimate aim changed the basis on which the external social and environmental report was prepared. Our analysis demonstrates that the perceived alignment with the financial report preparation and the explicit pursuit of auditability legitimized SER and paved the way for data systems to be changed. The programme borrowed authority from financial accounting technologies not only to make a system change but also to push SER internally, as we suggest that an intraorganizational group used the programme to ensure the existence and organizational status of SER. However, we also illustrate some of the practical challenges associated with this change, which include issues related to internal control and the establishment of organizational boundaries
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)731-749
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Auditability
  • Information systems
  • Social and environmental reporting

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