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Environmental management accounting in local government: A case of waste management

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Purpose ‐ This study aims to explore the state of environmental management accounting practice and the motivations for its use with a view to improving waste and recycling management by local government. The focus is on practice in local governments situated in the state of New South Wales (NSW), Australia. Prior studies suggest the need for environmental management accounting as a supporting tool for waste management. Design/methodology/approach ‐ An exploratory case study method was applied in 12 NSW local government organisations. In each local government interviews were conducted with managers responsible for waste and recycling issues. Findings ‐ Contrary to prior research this study found that, in the local governments investigated, an increasing amount of environmental management accounting information is being made available. The case studies found two main motivations encouraging the development of environmental management accounting in local government: first, social structural influences, such as regulatory pressures from different environmental regulatory bodies, environmental expectations from local communities, and pressures from peer councils; second, organisational contextual influences reflecting situational needs in the organisational contexts, such as complex waste operations and service designs, changes and uncertainties in waste and recycling management, and the council's strategic position for waste management. Research limitations/implications ‐ The results imply that institutional theory and contingency theory provide different but complementary explanations for the development of environmental management accounting in waste management. Although previous environmental studies are overwhelmingly in favour of social system-based theories, such as institutional theory, to explain environmental changes in organisations, an organisation's contextual dynamics seem to be equally important. Originality/value ‐ The findings about motivations provide useful information for environmental strategists and government regulators to make policies that improve accountability and the efficiency of waste and recycling management as well as promote future development of environmental management accounting to support sustainable waste management solutions.
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Keywords: Accounting; Australia; Contingency planning; Environmental management; Local government; Waste management

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-01-01

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