Glocalizing Sustainability: How Accounting Begins for Sustainable Development Goals in City Administration

Mika Luhtala*, Olga Welinder, Elina Vikstedt

*Corresponding author for this work

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This study aims to investigate the adoption of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the new performance perspective in cities. It also aims to understand how accounting for SDGs begins in city administrations by following Power’s (2015) fourfold development schema composed of policy object formation, object elaboration, activity orchestration and practice stabilization.

Focusing on a network of cities coordinated by the Finnish local government association, we analyzed the six largest cities in Finland employing a holistic multiple case study strategy. Our data consisted of Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs), city strategies, budget plans, financial statements, as well as results of participant observations and semi-structured interviews with key individuals involved in accounting for SDGs.

We unveiled the SDG framework as an interpretive scheme through which cities glocalized sustainable development as a novel, simultaneously global and local, performance object. Integration of the new accounts in city management is necessary for these accounts to take life in steering the actions. By creating meaningful alignment and the ability to impact managerial practices, SDGs and VLRs have the potential to influence local actions. Our results indicate further institutionalization progress of sustainability as a performance object through SDG-focused work.

While prior research has focused mainly on general factors influencing the integration of the sustainability agenda, this study provides a novel perspective by capturing the process and demonstrating empirically how new accounts on SDGs are introduced and deployed in the strategic planning and management of local governments.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 25 April 2024.


  • Agenda2030
  • SDGs
  • Sustainable development
  • Cities
  • Local governments
  • Accounting
  • Management
  • Voluntary local review

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