Exploring accounting-sustainability hybridisation in the UK public sector

Thomson, Ian and Grubnic, Suzana and Georgakopoulos, Georgios (2014) Exploring accounting-sustainability hybridisation in the UK public sector. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 39 (6). pp. 453-476. ISSN 0361-3682 (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aos.2014.02.003)

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The transformative potential of accounting-sustainability hybrids has been promoted and problematized in the literature. We contribute to this debate by exploring, theoretically and empirically, the role of accounting in shaping and reshaping sustainability practices. We develop a holistic framework which we use to analyse the governing and mediating roles of accounting-sustainability hybrids in the Environment Agency (of England and Wales) and West Sussex County Council. Our analysis identifies that local accounting-sustainability hybrids contribute positively to improving eco-efficiency, have some impact on eco-effectiveness, but limited bearing on social justice. Emerging assemblages of accounting-sustainability hybrids create capacity for wider sustainability transformations, particularly through their mediating roles. However, a number of factors combine to frustrate further sustainability transformations within these organisations and those they are charged with governing. These factors include the structural constraints of the accounting-sustainability hybrids, influenced by a relatively weak local sustainability programmatic and the pressing need to meet increasing service delivery expectations in a period of severe resource constraints.