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The legitimacy of social accounting: A case study of SME managers’ attitudes and actions
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Business Studies.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Business Studies.
2014 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Different stakeholders are now showing a higher interest in organisations’ social responsibility than ever before, creating an increased pressure on organisations' sustainability performance. Various researchers (e.g. Emerson, 2003; Lingane & Olsen, 2004) stress that in order to meet this pressure and to achieve a true sustainable development, organisations need to fully incorporate social values through social accounting. Although numerous organisations report on their social impacts (Hahn & Kühnen, 2013), it is often said that small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are lagging behind in terms of sustainability performance (Cassells & Lewis, 2011). A few studies have addressed this by investigating difficulties for social enterprises to conduct social accounting but a research gap is evident regarding practical implications for SMEs in the for-profit sector.

Through an embedded case study design of a sustainability network of for-profit SMEs on Gotland, we sought to explain SME managers perception of difficulties and benefits associated with social accounting, and how such attitudes relate to their sustainability practices. Through a triangulation design, surveys and qualitative interviews were applied to determine the relationship between attitudes and actions. A theoretical framework by Thomas and Lamm (2012), based on Ajzen’s (2005) theory of planned behaviour and Suchman’s (1995) typology of legitimacies was used for analysis.

The SME managers were found to have a neutral attitude towards social accounting and they all engaged in practical actions rather than social impact measurement or social reporting. Thus, the results reflect consistency between attitudes towards social accounting and actions, i.e. the intention to perform social accounting. The SME managers perceived the difficulties of social accounting to outweigh the benefits of it, and were insecure about their abilities to perform social accounting. The findings of this study could confirm previously found implications of social accounting and further found that the SME managers expected additional difficulties for companies in the service sector and for those without employees.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. , 61 p.
Keyword [en]
Social accounting, Small to medium sized enterprises, Corporate Social Responsibility, Managerial attitudes, Sustainability practices
National Category
Business Administration
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-228293OAI: diva2:733526
Educational program
Master Programme in Sustainable Management
Available from: 2014-07-14 Created: 2014-07-10 Last updated: 2014-07-14Bibliographically approved

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Sundberg, JohannaStevenson, Anna
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