Sustainability Management and Accounting Practices in the Public Sector

A special issue of Administrative Sciences (ISSN 2076-3387).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 January 2022) | Viewed by 20811

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Political and Social Science, University of Calabria, 87100 Cosenza, Italy
Interests: public value; sustainability accounting; gender reporting; integrated reporting; intellectual capital; social impact assessments; higher education institutions

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Guest Editor
Department of Management, University of Bologna, 40126 Bologna, Italy
Interests: sustainability reporting; gender accounting; performance measurement; intellectual capital; public sector; higher education institutions
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

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Guest Editor
Department of Economic Studies, University “G. d’ Annunzio” of Chieti-Pescara, 65127 Pescara, Italy
Interests: corporate social responsibility (CSR); carbon accounting and disclosure; sustainability accounting; assurance of sustainability reports; higher education institutions

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The public sector is composed of several organisations providing services (i.e., education, healthcare, justice, culture) and utilities (transport, water, waste) which are constitutive of the society (Broadbent and Guthrie,1992).

In doing so, the public sector has been assigned a central role to promote sustainability (e.g. Ball and Bebbington, 2008; Birney et al., 2010) and more recently to support the achievement of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (Bebbington and Unerman, 2017).

The public sector’s leading role in promoting sustainability could hold mandating, facilitating, partnering, and endorsing activities (The World Bank, 2002; 2018; Siboni and Sangiorgi, 2013). In the mandating role, public sector at different levels defines policy and legislative frameworks to embed sustainability in practices. Acting as facilitator, the public sector can support and stimulate the adoption of the sustainability agenda. Accordingly, the World Public Sector Report 2019 has highlighted the public sector’s primary need to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development” (UN, 2019, p. 2). Moreover, the public sector’s strategic partnership role is central in achieving collaboration with civil society and private sectors. The fourth role of the public sector is related to the endorsement of sustainability and related-initiatives.

In recent years the public sector has been involved in a major managerial and organisational change, with a greater tension in promoting a more efficient use of resources (Manes Rossi, 2016) and improving the ability to create public value (Moore, 1995; Benington, 2009).

Parallelly, a growing interest among the society emerged on the public services’ sustainability, to support public trust (Pollit et al., 2017). Consequently, a greater demand for transparency and accountability to whom involved in managing public funds has emerged to communicate about sustainability policies, strategies, actions, results, and impacts.

Research about sustainability accounting has widely investigated practices undertaken by the private sector, despite the public sector’s potential to promote advance in sustainability come first (Sangiorgi et al., 2017). Recent literature has focused on the use of sustainability reporting frameworks and tools (e.g. Biondi and Bracci, 2018; Manes-Rossi et al., 2020) and on the role of public sector in promoting carbon accounting as well as the use of quality of life indicators (Ball et al., 2009, 2017).

However, sustainability management and accounting practices in the public sector are exciting research topics that should be further investigated by scholars considering a large number of unexplored avenues so far.

This Special Issue invites authors to send theoretical and empirical proposals to contribute to a greater understanding of the practices of sustainability management and accounting by the public sector, promoting papers providing experiences coming from different type of public organisations and countries.

Potential topics include, but are not limited to, contributions concerning public sector on the follows:
- Literature reviews on sustainability management and accounting

- Form the Burthland Report to date, does the commitments of governments toward sustainability changed? How?

- Relationship between sustainability and SDGs: what is new?

- The role of national and local governments in promoting sustainability: examples of mandating, facilitating, partnering, and endorsing frameworks - Role and practices of public utilities in achieving sustainability

- Role and practices of public utilities in achieving sustainability

- Practices of stakeholders and civil society engagement to promote SDGs

- Case studies of sustainable management

- Sustainability and environmental accounting practices

- Sustainability and climate change planning practices

- Factors enabling and counteracting sustainability commitment inside organisations

- How do sustainability commitment and discourse establishes and develops within organisations?

- Analysis of costs and benefits related to sustainability management practices

- Lesson learned from practices of sustainability management and accounting

- Channels and tools to promote and engage human resources in sustainability initiatives

- How sustainability is represented by the media

- Assessment and visualising tools for sustainability

- Accountability tools for sustainability

- Assurance practices of sustainability accounting and reporting

- Consequences of COVID-19 in sustainability commitments and practices by public sector organisations

- Carbon accounting and reporting theory and practices

References
Ball A., & Bebbington, J. (2008). Editorial: Accounting and Reporting for Sustainable Development in Public Service Organizations. Public Money and Management, 28 (6), 323-326.

Ball, A., Grubnic, S., & Birchall, J. (2017). Sustainability accounting and accountability in the public sector. In Bebbington, J., Unerman, J., and O’Dwyer, B. (Eds), Sustainability Accounting and Accountability (Routledge, London).

Ball, A., Mason, I., Grubnic, S. & Hughes, P. (2009) The Carbon Neutral Public Sector, Public ManagementReview, 11 (5), 575-600.

Bebbington, J. & Unerman, J. (2017), Achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: An enabling role for accounting research, Accounting Auditing & Accountability Journal, 31(1), 2-24.

Bianchi C. (2012), Enhancing Performance Management and Sustainable Organizational Growth Through System-Dynamics Modeling, in Grosser S.N., Zeier R., Systemic Management for Intelligent Organizations, Berlino, Springer.

Biondi, L., Bracci, E. (2018). Sustainability, popular and integrated reporting in the public sector: A fad and fashion perspective. Sustainability, 10 (9), 3112.
Deidda Gagliardo E., Bracci E., Bigoni M. (2014). “Public value measurement in cultural services: a case study”, in “Public Value Management, Measurement and Reporting” (a cura di Guthrie J., Marcon G., Russo S., Farneti F.), EmeraldBooks, pp. 129-157.

Del Sordo C., Farneti F., Guthrie, J., Pazzi, S., & Siboni, B., Social reports in Italian universities: disclosures and preparers’ perspective, Meditari Accountancy Research, 24 (1), 91-110.

Farneti F., & Guthrie J. (2009) Sustainability reporting by Australian public sector organisations: Why they report, Accounting Forum, 33 (2), 89-98.

Farneti F., & Siboni B. (2011), An analysis of the Italian governmental guidelines and of the local governments' practices for social reports, Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, 2 (1), 101-125.

Hawrysz, L., & Foltys, J. (2016). Environmental aspects of social responsibility of public sector organizations. Sustainability, 8 (1), 19.

Guthrie, J., Farneti, F., & Siboni, B. (2010), Social and sustainability reporting in Italian local governments: what is not reported?, in Osborne, S., & Ball A. (Eds.), Social Accounting and Public Management: Accountability for the Common Good, Routledge, Abingdon, 192-202.

Manes-Rossi, F., Nicolò, G., & Argento, D. (2020), Non-financial reporting formats in public sector organizations: a structured literature review, Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management, 32 (4), pp. 639-669.

Mazzara L., Sangiorgi D., & Siboni B., (2020), Public strategic plans in Italian local governments: a sustainability development focus?, Public Management Review, 12 (4), 493-509.

Mussari, R., Reichard, C., Bjorna, H., Nakrosis, V., & Bankauskaité-Grigaliuniené, S. (2016), Design, Trajectories of Reform, and Implementation of Performance Budgeting in Local Governments: A Comparative Study of Germany, Italy, Lithuania and Norway in Kuhlmann, S., Bouckaert, G. , Local Public Sector Reforms in Times of Crises. National Trajectories and International Comparisons, London, Palgrave Macmillan.

Nardo, M., Veltri, S. (2014). On the plausibility of an integrated approach to disclose social and intangible issues. Social Responsibility Journal, 10, 416-435, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/SRJ-04-2012-0120.

Navarro-Galera, A.; Alcaraz-Quiles, F.J.; Ortiz-Rodriguez, D. (2018). Enhancing Sustainability Transparency in Local Governments-An Empirical Research in Europe. Sustainability, 10, 2161.

Nicolò, G., Zanellato, G., Manes-Rossi F. & Tiron-Tudor A. (2019), Beyond Financial Reporting. Integrated Reporting and its determinants: Evidence from the context of European state-owned enterprises, Financial Reporting, (2), 43-72.

Parker, L., Guthrie, J., Milne, M., & Broadbent, J. (2008). Public sector to public services: 20 years of “contextual” accounting research. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 5 (2), 3-31.

Pollitt C., & Bouckaert G., (2017), Public Management Reform A Comparative Analysis - Into The Age of Austerity (4th Ed.). New York, Oxford University Press.

Ricci, P., & Pavone, P. (2020). The experience of social reporting in Italian judicial offices. The laboratory of the public prosecutor’s office in Naples. International Journal of Public Sector Management. DOI 10.1108/IJPSM-04-2020-0102.

Sangiorgi, D., Mazzara, L., & Siboni, B. (2017), Do European recommendations impact on sustainability policies by Italian local governments?, Public Money & Management, 37(7), 491-498.

Siboni, B., Sangiorgi, D., (2013), Genesis and Development of the European Communication on Sustainability in Local Governments, International Journal of Advances in Management Science, 2(2), 43-49.

UN - Development Goal, World Public Sector Report 2019, Division for Public Institutions and digital Government, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, New York, June.

Warren, C.M.J. (2010), The role of public sector asset managers in responding to climate change: Disaster and business continuity planning. Property Management, 28 (4), 245-256.

World Bank. (2018). Doing business 2018: Understanding regulations for small and medium-size enterprises. Washington, DC: World Bank Group. Retrieved from http://www.doingbusiness.org/content/dam/doingBusiness/media/Annual-Reports/English/DB2018-Full-Report.pdf, accessed December 4, 2019.

Prof. Maria Teresa Nardo
Prof. Benedetta Siboni
Prof. Lara Tarquinio
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • public sector
  • accounting
  • corporate social responsibility and management

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

17 pages, 349 KiB  
Article
Sustainability Reporting at a Crossroads in Italian Universities: Is Web-Based Media Adoption Deinstitutionalising Sustainability Reporting?
by Patrizia Di Tullio and Matteo La Torre
Adm. Sci. 2022, 12(1), 34; https://doi.org/10.3390/admsci12010034 - 17 Feb 2022
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 2958
Abstract
Higher education institutions and universities have recently started to publish their sustainability and corporate responsibility reports. Yet, due to digitalisation and the benefits of digital reporting, websites offer organisations novel opportunities to communicate more updated, timely and interactive information than a periodic sustainability [...] Read more.
Higher education institutions and universities have recently started to publish their sustainability and corporate responsibility reports. Yet, due to digitalisation and the benefits of digital reporting, websites offer organisations novel opportunities to communicate more updated, timely and interactive information than a periodic sustainability report. However, we know little about sustainability reporting practice within universities and their use of online communication. This study examines the relationship between sustainability reporting practices and web-based communication practices in Italian universities. We employed a qualitative enquire and content analysis of the sustainability web pages of Italian public universities by analysing their content and updates and their relationship with their adoption of sustainability reporting. Our results suggest there are risks to web-based media being used to replace sustainability reporting, resulting in a deinstitutionalising effect for sustainability reporting. This study contributes to the literature on sustainability reporting and disclosure in universities by exploring web-based university communication on sustainability issues and stimulating the debate on replacing sustainability reports with more timely and interactive forms of communication. Full article
18 pages, 2574 KiB  
Article
Role of Public Entities in Suitable Provision of Public Services: Case Study from Slovakia
by Viera Papcunová, Roman Vavrek and Marek Dvořák
Adm. Sci. 2021, 11(4), 143; https://doi.org/10.3390/admsci11040143 - 30 Nov 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2919
Abstract
Local governments in the Slovak Republic are important in public administration and form an important part of the public sector, as they provide various public services. Until 1990, all public services were provided only by the state. The reform of public administration began [...] Read more.
Local governments in the Slovak Republic are important in public administration and form an important part of the public sector, as they provide various public services. Until 1990, all public services were provided only by the state. The reform of public administration began in 1990 with the decentralization of competencies. Several competencies were transferred to local governments from the state, and thus municipalities began to provide public services that the state previously provided. Registry offices were the first to be acquired by local governments from the state. This study aimed to characterize the transfer of competencies and their financing from state administration to local government using the example of registry offices in the Slovak Republic. In the paper, we evaluated the financing of this competency from 2007 to 2018 at the level of individual regions of the Slovak Republic. The results of the analysis and testing of hypotheses indicated that a higher number of inhabitants in individual regions did not affect the number of actions at these offices, despite the fact that the main role of the registry office is to keep registry books, in which events, such as births, weddings, and deaths, are registered. Full article
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16 pages, 331 KiB  
Article
Universities’ Social Responsibility through the Lens of Strategic Planning: A Content Analysis
by Maria Teresa Nardo, Georgiana Cristina Codreanu and Fabiana Roberto
Adm. Sci. 2021, 11(4), 139; https://doi.org/10.3390/admsci11040139 - 22 Nov 2021
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 3590
Abstract
This paper examines the degree of social responsibility integration in Italian public universities’ medium and long-term planning documents. We adopted a qualitative approach, applying the content analysis technique to a selected sample of 20 strategic plans issued by Italian large and mega universities. [...] Read more.
This paper examines the degree of social responsibility integration in Italian public universities’ medium and long-term planning documents. We adopted a qualitative approach, applying the content analysis technique to a selected sample of 20 strategic plans issued by Italian large and mega universities. The coding instrument was developed considering the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contained in the United Nations 2030 Agenda. Therefore, we identified 17 categories and 103 key symbols. The analysis undertaken showed that to date, Italian public universities still pay little attention in their planning documents to objectives regarding the multiple dimensions of Social Responsibility, mainly in relation to environmental issues, a failure detrimental to University Social Responsibility implementation and achievement. However, there is a greater sensitivity to Social Responsibility issues in some universities’ planning documents, therefore also more mature practices can be identified, showing universities that have institutionalized the concept of sustainability in their planning documents. Full article
13 pages, 266 KiB  
Article
A Sustainability Management Model for Local Government: An Explanatory Study
by Fabio De Matteis and Elio Borgonovi
Adm. Sci. 2021, 11(4), 126; https://doi.org/10.3390/admsci11040126 - 5 Nov 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2496
Abstract
Although the scientific debate in the field of business economics is rich in contributions to the subject of sustainability, they mainly focus on a specific aspect represented by sustainability reporting. Consistent with this bibliographic evidence, the aim of this study was to investigate [...] Read more.
Although the scientific debate in the field of business economics is rich in contributions to the subject of sustainability, they mainly focus on a specific aspect represented by sustainability reporting. Consistent with this bibliographic evidence, the aim of this study was to investigate a sustainability management model in local authorities, which, by examining the dimensions of sustainability, goes beyond the focus of reporting highlighted in the literature to consider the entire sustainability cycle (from planning to measurement). To this end, the methodology of the single case study with multiple units of analysis is used, examining the case of an Italian local authority that has experimented with the sustainability management model described in this paper. The analysis of the case leads to some concluding remarks on the strengths and weaknesses of the model, contributing to the scientific debate on sustainability management and providing useful indications for public managers and political decision-makers. Full article
28 pages, 4217 KiB  
Article
Assessing the Effects of Directive 2014/95/EU on Nonfinancial Information Reporting: Evidence from Italian and Spanish Listed Companies
by Stefanía Carolina Posadas and Lara Tarquinio
Adm. Sci. 2021, 11(3), 89; https://doi.org/10.3390/admsci11030089 - 31 Aug 2021
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 3275
Abstract
This paper explored the effects of new regulation on the disclosure of NFI in two European countries, Italy and Spain. The method used to develop the analysis is mainly qualitative. Content analysis was performed to verify the sustainability indicators disclosed by Italian and [...] Read more.
This paper explored the effects of new regulation on the disclosure of NFI in two European countries, Italy and Spain. The method used to develop the analysis is mainly qualitative. Content analysis was performed to verify the sustainability indicators disclosed by Italian and Spanish companies, listed on the FTSE MIB and IBEX 35 Indexes, before and after the Directive’s publication and implementation in national legislation. The level of NFI disclosure was scored using a disclosure index. The comparative analysis found a progressive reduction in disclosure levels for Italian companies compared with Spanish companies, for which an expansion of the disclosure was detected. Moreover, a reduced gap between the quantity of NFI reported in the two countries was found. This is one of the few studies to use a 3-year longitudinal analysis to investigate the EU Directive’s impact at the cross-country level. Full article
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26 pages, 629 KiB  
Article
Integrated Reporting Implementation and Core Activities Disclosure in UK Higher Education Institutions
by Mahalaxmi Adhikariparajuli, Abeer Hassan and Mary Fletcher
Adm. Sci. 2021, 11(3), 86; https://doi.org/10.3390/admsci11030086 - 20 Aug 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 3703
Abstract
Through integrated reporting (IR) and integrated thinking (IT), higher education institutions (HEIs) can engage future students, staff and other key stakeholders. This paper examines the impact of IR framework implementation on core activities disclosure within the UK HEIs. In particular, the authors explore [...] Read more.
Through integrated reporting (IR) and integrated thinking (IT), higher education institutions (HEIs) can engage future students, staff and other key stakeholders. This paper examines the impact of IR framework implementation on core activities disclosure within the UK HEIs. In particular, the authors explore the influence of the integrated thinking approach, intended to enhance the extent of the IR content elements, teaching and learning, internationalisation and research activities disclosure. The study is based on the annual reports of 123 UK HEIs over 3 years—2015–16, 2016–17 and 2017–18. Consistent with the predictions of legitimacy theory and the integrated thinking approach, the results show the extent that integrated reporting content elements and HEIs core activities disclosure practices have increased over the study period. The results also indicate that adoption of the IR framework, league table ranking position, key performance indicator reporting, size, research quality and graduate prospects all have significant positive influences on HEIs core activities disclosure. Based on the findings, the recommendations are that UK HEI governing and other regularity bodies, such as British Universities Finance Director Groups, Leadership Foundation in Higher Education and the Higher Education Funding Council, should consider development of voluntary integrated reporting guidelines and a core activities disclosure framework. Full article
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