Under what conditions is mandatory disclosure most likely to cause organisational change?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to reflect on how mandatory sustainability accounts can be designed to maximise the likelihood of moving society towards sustainability.
Design/methodology/approach: The authors use institutional theory to show that organisations are constrained by institutions. Sustainability accounts can drive change by providing information that changes the institutional mix of pressures on organisations.
Findings: Mandatory disclosure is most likely to drive change when: indicators are appropriate for information intermediaries or other intended users; information is provided at the appropriate level of aggregation; data are comparable to external benchmarks and/or other corporations; there exists a linkage to network of other relevant information; and sufficient popular and political support exists.
Practical implications: Social changes will only come about if users receive information relevant to their goals and are able to translate it into political action. Corporate-level reporting may not be the best mechanism for this, because many users are interested in issues-based information. In many instances, due to the ability to facilitate greater comparability, a database mechanism is likely to be more helpful. Social and environmental accounting research should consider adopting more site-based reporting, ascertain what sustainability information governments already collect, determine what information NGOs need for campaigning purposes, and theorise how to create and link a nexus of accounts.
Originality/value: While many studies have called for improved practice and lamented the impotence of reporting, few studies have explored this link from a theoretical perspective.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)811-835
Number of pages25
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number3
Early online date2019
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2019


  • Sustainability reporting
  • Social and environmental accounting
  • Central databases
  • Pollutant release and transfer register


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