Sustainable accounting and firm survival: an empirical examination of Thai listed firms.

Author:Pothong, Ornicha
Position:Report - Survey

    Since the beginning of the 21st century, sustainability has been seen as an increasingly urgent strategic issue that positively signifies challenges to business with a widespread and growing recognition in the public sector and society as a whole. Increasing attention and demand for transparency and accountability for sustainable development has led to the companies manage their sustainability footprint to ensure that the economic development balances positive economic and social impacts against negative social and environment. Furthermore, a prerequisite for organization being able to survive in long term is a society that is economic activity, environmentally, and socially sustainable (Hopwood, Unerman, and Fries, 2010) that is triple bottom line. Then, sustainable accounting conforms to triple bottom line (TBL) concept which aims to report an organization's economic, social and environmental impact (Elkington, 1997). While traditional accounting practice focuses only on financial or economic outcomes of business activity to maximize profits for shareholders (Stormer, 2003). However both economic behavior and ethical behavior can actually achieve a common corporate goal, because ethical behavior can bring economic reward back to the firms (Koh and Boo, 2004). Therefore, recently sustainable accounting concept has been emphasized on the integration of ethical, social, environment, and economic (Adams and Frost, 2008). Furthermore, sustainability in accounting and related terms is being used with greater frequency at academic conferences and in corporate practice. This raises the question of the relationships between accounting and sustainability and the role of accounting for sustainability (Schaltegger and Burritt, 2010). As mentioned above, it seems to be two commonly accounting ethics concepts that held sustainable assumptions, namely social responsibility and ethical accounting practice.

    Regarding social responsibility, it is seen as an organizational ability to manage stakeholders (Waddock and Bodwell, 2004). Also, that concept leads to organizations operate profitably yet in a socially and environmentally responsible manner to achieve business sustainability and stakeholder satisfaction (Castka and others, 2004). Finally, social responsibility focuses not only to comply with the law but also to meet ethical responsibilities expected by the society that are beyond the legal obligations (McWilliams and Siegel, 2001; Moon, 2004). Social responsibility is the business operation in a way that meets or exceeds societies' ethical, legal, commercial, and public expectations. Regarding accounting ethics practice, ethics is a central element of accounting because of investors, lenders and others rely on integrity of accounting information (Keller, Smith, and Smith, 2007). Hence, accounting ethics plays a key role in the social and economic progress of a nation. The ethics play critical roles which are important to keep financial systems of the corporation. Stakeholders such as consumers, investors, and the community press the organizations to behave ethically and in such a socially responsible way that they can no longer be ignored (Koh and Boo, 2004). If the corporate ignores the need for durable sustainability in these areas, then the risk places potentially unbearable burdens on success in sustainable future. As seen by the collapsed business in the past due to the recent corporate crisis such as the case of Enron, WorldCom, Asian economic crisis in 1997, and U.S. sub-prime in 2007, all are resulted from the lack of accounting ethics and transparency accounting. Therefore, ethical problems in accounting have become a very important issue now. Sustainable accounting brings organizations together to develop practical attributes in the environmental, social and human accounting fields, including accounting ethics to be better connected with strategy and firm performance. Moreover, the complicated sustainable requires accounting to be more fully realized its potential role to commit and innovate in long-term solutions. Now, in recognizing its crucial role, a growing number of organizations have been committed to developing such imaginative and innovative sustainable accounting and reporting practices (Hopwood, Unerman, and Fries, 2010). In this research, sustainable accounting refers to the extent to which a firm focuses on sustainable keys with accounting rules and regulations to meet stakeholder interest and economic value.

    Therefore, this research proposes a new construct, sustainable accounting, by emphasizing on integration of accounting ethics practices, social responsibility, and human capital. The reason is the company can sustain, long time or not, it does not depend on only the social responsibility but also depends on accounting ethics practice as earlier mentioned above. Hence, there are five aspects of sustainable accounting which need to be recognized and analyzed in this research, namely accounting ethics awareness, voluntary accounting proactiveness, transparency accounting mindset, human capital disclosure, and social responsibility reporting. Those five aspects must be considered as the key dimensions of sustainable accounting, all of which are equally important. Furthermore, this research focuses on the antecedence and of sustainable accounting which is executive vision, accounting experience, corporate governance culture, business environment change, and consequence which is excellent market value, and motivational employee commitment and stakeholder acceptance. The primary purpose of this research is to examine the effects of sustainable accounting on firm survival. In addition, another research purposes to firstly, investigate the effect of sustainable accounting on market value, employee commitment, and stakeholder acceptance antecedence and consequences of sustainable accounting and to examine the moderating effects, secondly, examine the effect of value, employee commitment, and stakeholder acceptance on survival of the firm, thirdly, explore the effect of executive vison for long-term operation, accounting experience, corporate governance culture, and business environment change on sustainable accounting. The key research question is how does sustainable accounting has an influence firm survival. Moreover, this research aims to examine specific questions. Firstly, how does sustainable accounting influence market value, employee commitment, and stakeholder acceptance? Secondly, how do market value, employee commitment, and stakeholder acceptance affect survival of the firm? Thirdly, how does executive vision for long--term operation, accounting experience, corporate governance culture, and business environment change affect sustainable accounting?


    The review shows that many theories try to explain why some companies adopt sustainable accounting concept. This research implements two mains theories to define the meaning of sustainable accounting which are stakeholder and legitimacy theories. In addition, contingency theory is included to clearly explain the associations between sustainable accounting, its antecedents, and consequences.

    2.1 Stakeholder Theory

    Stakeholder theory can be categorized into two branches--ethical and managerial, branches (1) in ethical branch, all stakeholders have rights to assess information that can lead to improve corporate financial performances. (2) In managerial branch, corporate management will serve the demand of its stakeholders

    because this perspective considers the differences between stakeholder groups in society and how they should be managed if a corporation is to survive (Deegan, 2001). Hence, when the stakeholder demands increase, the businesses have to improve their operation to meet the demands.

    In this research, stakeholder theory is implemented to explain "why any firms should recognize the important of sustainable accounting?" The argument is that firms are trying to adopt sustainable accounting; they must take the demands of ethics and social responsibility by integrating accounting ethics and social responsibility concept with stakeholder perspectives to sustainable accounting dimensions into business accounting practice. Since ethical and social responsibility are likely to be strong and often positive reactions among stakeholders (Morsing and Schultz, 2006), companies cannot respond to the needs of their shareholders without satisfying the demands of other stakeholders (Foster and Jonker, 2005). Creating value of the firm for maximizing shareholders' wealth cannot be only one objective of management in the long run, company must be obtained through or together with values of other stakeholders which are the needs related to social and environmentally sustainable behavior (Prado-Lorenzo, Gallego-Alvarez, and Garcia-Sanchez, 2009). Therefore, stakeholder theory provides a useful framework to develop hypotheses about the relationships among sustainable accounting and its constructs.

    2.2 Legitimacy Theory

    Legitimacy theory focuses on the relationships between corporate social disclosure and community concerns so that management must react to community expectations and changes (Deegan, 2001) This is because a corporation is part of a broader social system (Deegan 2002) and businesses have to operate in social then they have to concern with the social in which they operate business. Thus, companies will adjust their activities to meet community expectations, if the companies need to maintain the sustainable business. However, a company does not need to ensure support from all of society. It is able to achieve legitimacy by gaining support from enough parties to ensure its survival (Johnson and Holub, 2003).

    This research applies the legitimacy theory in the context of accounting ethics and corporate social responsibility (CSR) information disclosure. Mostly, the legitimacy theory explains...

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