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Knowing how to hold to account
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, School of Business, Accounting.
(English)In: Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, ISSN 1368-0668, E-ISSN 1758-4205Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

Purpose: to analyse the ability and skill of the one enforcing accountability.

Design/methodology/approach: Knowing how to hold to account is viewed from a perspective of knowing as situated accomplished action. The empirical case consists of Nordic investors who seek to hold companies accountable for their social and environmental performance.

Findings: The study finds that holding to account consists of distributed knowing and delegated activities. To coordinate the activities accountability relationships within the holding to account practice develops. Apart from internal relationships and the relationship to the accountable, knowing how to hold to account consists of demonstrating authority and successful practice in situations with important others, such as organizational colleagues, competitors and media. When face-to-face with the accountable, the appropriation of a customised and generalizable vocabulary helps the actors distance discussions from the expertise of the accountable, and facilitates the reorganization of business contexts so that their experiences are ‘transferable’ across these contexts.

Research implications: A depiction of accountability relationships as involving solely the accountable and the one holding to account is too simplistic. As in the present case, the practice of holding to account may include coordinated, multiple actors, even from separate organizations. Rather than focusing on individuals, the study promotes a focus on situations and the actors found therein as the circumstances of the situations will affect any outcome.

Originality/value: The study focuses on the practice of enforcing accountability, a know how that is often taken for granted, although earlier studies have indicated that such practice is not always successful.

Keyword [en]
Accountability, knowing, investors, social, environmental
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-89080OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-89080DiVA: diva2:615524
Available from: 2013-04-10 Created: 2013-04-10 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Accounting in the field of governance
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Accounting in the field of governance
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Corporate governance phenomena have traditionally been, and are still, studied foremost as relationships between principals and agents. Studies of how accounting plays out in corporate governance settings rather share the interest in hierarchical influence than challenge it. The present thesis argues that when studying accounting in corporate governance settings we must, in addition to studying hierarchical influence, take into account the ‘field of governance’ in which accounting is situated. The hierarchical influence with which the corporate governance literature is concerned does not occur in an isolated setting, but in a field with pre-existing, concurrent and entering governance initiatives, technologies and actors. Such aspects of the field of governance necessarily influence how accounting is able to serve corporate governance ends.

Based on two empirical cases, institutional investors and trade unions, active in a field of governance concerned with social and environmental aspects of corporate performance, this thesis consists of four studies investigating the different aspects (who, what and where) of the field of governance and the influence these aspects have on accounting in a corporate governance setting. This thesis, as a result, proposes a new way to study accounting in corporate governance settings and identifies further conditions for accounting’s constitutive ability.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: School of Business, Stockholm University, 2013. 190 p.
Keyword
accounting, corporate, governance, field, investors, trade unions, accountability, technology
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-89126 (URN)978-91-7447-682-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-05-20, Gröjersalen, hus 3, Kräftriket, Roslagsvägen 101, Stockholm, 13:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: Submitted. Paper 2: Submitted. Paper 3: Manuscript. Paper 4: Manuscript.

Available from: 2013-04-29 Created: 2013-04-12 Last updated: 2013-06-13Bibliographically approved

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