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School of Business | Department of Accounting | Accounting | 2014
Thesis number: 13864
The challenges faced when starting from scratch: baking GRI G4 sustainability reporting into existing organizational practices
Author: Multanen, Juho
Title: The challenges faced when starting from scratch: baking GRI G4 sustainability reporting into existing organizational practices
Year: 2014  Language: eng
Department: Department of Accounting
Academic subject: Accounting
Index terms: laskentatoimi; accounting; johdon laskentatoimi; managerial accounting; yhteiskuntavastuu; corporate responsibility; kestävä kehitys; sustainable development; raportit; reports; muutos; change; valta; power; agentit; agents
Pages: 88
Key terms: sustainability reporting; corporate social responsibility; management accounting; GRI framework; institutional change as social phenomenon; circuits of power; role of agency

This study focuses on the process of introducing the trendy GRI G4 sustainability reporting standard in a Finnish chemical company and how this is done. The purpose of this single case study is to deepen our understanding on the challenges and tensions that actors dealing with reporting must handle and turn to their advantages. What empowers them to tackle these challenges, who are they exactly, and how have they baked the MA-related rules and routines of G4 into existing organizational practices is examined. How have the new CSR institutions, driving multi-stakeholder interests, been unveiled in this case, given the production of GRI reports is voluntary and seen as a non-core business initiative? This case study is interpretative in nature, and based on six (6) extensive semi-structured interviews conducted at Kemira with the main actors of CSR and accounting & finance functions. Sustainability, governance and financial reports were examined. The search for challenges was anchored in findings that had emerged as side-products in MA research on sustainability accounting (and reporting). This thesis also builds on Burns & Scapens' (2000) ideas of MA change as a social phenomenon and refines it with institutional theories on the role of agency (Seo & Creed 2002) and circuits of power (Ribeiro 2003). A medley of alternative theories were explored to capture a more whole picture of institutional change and to understand, "how and why" the MA-related GRI institutions emerged the way they did.


The findings indicate the main challenges faced in Kemira's reporting are 1) the difficulty of ensuring consistency and coherence between mandatory financial and sustainability reports 2) the question on how to best disclose sensitive CSR issues (the principle of balance) and 3) the demands set for project management, when heterogeneous, dispersed actors produce a report out of data from many sources. Secondly, this study found that the influence of MA is spreading beyond its traditional confines - MA is becoming more decentralized and involved in subjective controls handled by non-MA actors. Also, MA-related tools may affect organizational learning and cultural renewal, embedding new CSR logic into practices, supporting CSR progress. Thirdly, this study claims a three-pronged approach of institutional change (social build-up, agency & power) may allow gaining a more total view of the forces at play in any change process. Fourthly, this study supports the notion that for businesses and markets to be harnessed for CSR, and for real CSR initiatives (i.e. deep commitments) to make business sense, there must be demand for them. If not, this demand (combining the increasing socio-environmental consciousness and targeting companies genuinely committed to CSR) must be created by marketing. To be able to market real CSR commitments, this concept must be defined clearly for varying contexts.
Master's theses are stored at Learning Centre in Otaniemi.