A “green” accountant is difficult to find: Can accountants contribute to sustainability management initiatives?

Matthew Egan, Dale Tweedie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to empirically explore how accountants can contribute to organisational sustainability initiatives.
Design/methodology/approach: The paper adopts a critical case study methodology, focused on a large Australian company in which senior management sought to engage accounting staff in an internal sustainability reporting initiative focused on eco-efficiency. Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus, capitals and field enable a relational analysis of the findings.
Findings: While accountants adapted well to early changes aligned to cost efficiency, they struggled to engage with more creative sustainability improvements. The paper explains both adaptions and constraints as interactions between accountants’ professional habitus, capitals and their broader organisational field. Prior strategies to engage accountants (e.g. training) only partially address these factors.
Practical implications: The accounting profession has persistently urged members to contribute to organisational sustainability initiatives. This paper provides insight into how organisations might combine professional acculturation and appropriate capitals to advance this agenda.
Social implications: Although eco-efficiency is only one potential element of comprehensive organisational sustainability management, the paper’s insights into engaging accountants contributes to understanding how broader social sustainability agendas might be advanced.
Originality/value: The study addresses calls for empirical insights into how accountants can contribute to corporate sustainability practices. Prior studies have polarised between interpreting accountants as either enablers or barriers to sustainability change. This paper explores how shifting configurations of habitus, capital and organisational field can enable either outcome.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1749-1773
Number of pages25
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number6
Early online date2018
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2018


  • Sustainability
  • Sustainability accountants
  • Sustainability management accounting


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