ATOYEBI Samuel Babajide (2013), [email protected] ACCOUNTING SUSTAINABILITY, THE EFFECT OF CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (A case study of MTN LTD.) 1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY Sustainability accounting (also known as social accounting, social and environmental accounting, corporate social reporting, corporate social responsibility reporting, or non-financial reporting) was originated about 20 years ago and is considered a subcategory of financial accounting that focus on the disclosure of non-financial information about a firm's performance to external parties such as capital holders, mainly to stakeholders, creditors and other authorities. These represent the activities that have a direct impact on society, environment and economic performance of an organisation. Sustainability accounting in managerial accounting contrast with financial accounting in that managerial accounting is used for internal decision making and the creation of new policies that will have an effect on the organisation's performance at economic, ecological and social (known as the triple bottom line or Triple-P's; People, Planet, Profit) level. Sustainability Accounting is a tool used by organisations to become more sustainable. The most known widely used measurements are the Corporate Sustainability Reporting and the triple bottom line accounting. These recognise the role of financial information and shows how traditional accounting is extended by improving transparency and accountability by reporting on the Triple-P's. As a result of the triple bottom level reporting, and in order to render and guarantee consistency in social and environmental information the GRI (Global Reporting Initiative), was established with the goal to provide guidelines to organisations reporting on sustainability. In some countries guidelines were developed to complement the GRI. The GRI states that "reporting on economic, environmental and social performance by all organizations is as routine and comparable as financial reporting". The growing importance of sustainability triggered an increasing number of organizations to collect, use and distribute sustainability-related data and information (Schaltegger et al., 2003). In order to respond to this trend, the function of sustainability accounting emerged, as its role is to provide and transmit that information, with the same purpose with which conventional financial accounting deals with financial information and objectives (Lamberton, 2005). The literature proposes sustainability accounting as an entirely new system of accounting, or as an extension of traditional accounting functions, depending on who the people in charge within the organization are and on which type of information is collected. In both cases, the starting point is that the conventional accounting systems overlook environmental and social issues related to the company’s activity, and are therefore are not adequate to drive decision-making in organizations that want to proactively manage sustainability (Bennet et al., 2013). Nevertheless, the term “sustainability accounting” has become a rather generic term, and although attempts have been made, few definitions of sustainability accounting exist (Schaltegger and Burrit, 2010). For the purpose of this paper, it was chosen to focus on an idea of sustainability accounting that builds up on the concept of the “triple bottom-line” coined by Elkington (1994). This concept is based on the perspective that a company should not just consider its financial performance, but also the environmental and social ones, as the activity of the firm generates impact on all three of these areas. Therefore, the concept of the triple bottomline emerged as new tool to measure organizational performance and implies that, beside economic performance, also environmental and social performance should be measured (Hubbard, 2009). Starting from these considerations, the following definition of sustainability accounting was developed: “the set of activities and processes aimed at integrating social and environmental performance into companies’ performance measurement systems, in order to facilitate the control and the reporting of such issues”. According to Lamberton (2005), the influence of traditional accounting principle on sustainability accounting are widely acknowledged, as the majority of approaches to it takes inspiration from conventional accounting principles and practices. At the same time, the author claims that it is not proven whether applying traditional accounting principles to sustainability is beneficial. The involvement of traditional accounting into sustainability management is discussed by the literature as well. Zvezdov et al. (2010) for instance, claim an increasing involvement of the accounting function as well as a recognizable participation of accountants. The involvement of accountants is often seen as valuable: Ballou et al. (2012) for example claim that using accountants’ expertise, especially in terms of risk management, financial reporting and independent assurance, increases the strategic integration of sustainability initiatives. Ross (2010) adds that beside their analytical skills, management accountants can contribute with their experience in communicating with different management functions. In order to leverage on this potential, Medley (1997) points out that accountants should receive tailored trainings in order to improve their understanding of sustainability issues, and promote best practices to develop their role. The term cooperate special responsibility encompasses a variety of issues revolving around companies’ interactions with society. The sorts of issues covered include ethics, governance, social activities such as philanthropy and community involvement, product safety, equal opportunities, human rights and environmental activities. When considering cooperate special responsibility from the perspective of the accounting profession, such consideration is necessarily and inextricably linked with social (and environmental) reporting or accounting. Social accounting was itself a product, in part, of the early social responsibility movement of the 1960s (see Drucker, 1965), but also appeared around the same time the environmental movement emerged (Gray and Guthrie, 2007). The work will focus on accounting sustainability, the effect of corporate social responsibility. Corporate social responsibility can be classified as those policies, activities, or behaviour undertaken by an organisation that goes beyond the traditional economic and legal obligations that the firm has with its target internal and external stakeholders (Howard R. Bowen 1953; Carroll 1979; Preston and Post 1975). Studies looking at CSR have concluded that what “goes beyond” these traditional responsibilities is influenced and, therefore, ultimately demanded by the norms, values, and expectations of stakeholders of the organisation and are classified as being ethical or moral obligations (Balmer et al. 2007; Carroll 1979; Sethi 1975). Responding to these ethical obligations must be voluntary in nature and if undertaken effectively should eventually benefit and improve the overall welfare of the community in which the firm operates (Anderson Jr. 1989; Manne and Wallich 1972). Anderson (1989) argues that in order for these benefits to eventuate both the organisation and its stakeholders have a responsibility to work together. It is assumed that an organisation being proactive and meeting the needs of its stakeholders before it is required to is deemed to be engaging in philanthropic or discretionary type behaviour (Carroll 1979). 1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM OF STUDY Despite the increasing interest around the topic of sustainability accounting and corporate social responsibility, the majority of publications has been thus far very conceptually oriented and the amount of empirical work is very limited (Schaltegger, Gibassier and Zvezdov, 2011). In this sense, Taticchi (2013) argues that there is a lack of published research on the role that performance measurement systems and reporting tools can play in order to support sustainability projects and corporate social responsibility. The reality sees that sustainability measures are not often integrated in strategic performance measurement systems; in addition, the factors that explain how companies’ actual practices deal with this integration are largely unexplored (Gates and Germain, 2010). The authors claim that such research should not only address the academic world, but also be relevant for practitioners. Schaltegger and Burrit (2010) advocate further research on sustainability accounting and corporate social responsibility, in particular with the aim of understanding the dynamics linked to the development and the use of sustainability accounting systems in corporate social responsibility, as well as of developing a comprehensive management control approach towards sustainability that is so far missing. The implementation of sustainability in companies deals in the first place with an external pressure of stakeholders for the legitimation of the company. This concept is strictly related to the role of sustainability accounting. As a matter of fact, following the criteria of sustainability implies for firms to consider responsibilities that go beyond those related to the actors with which they have a direct economical relations, including therefore a wider set of stakeholders (Hubbard, 2009). Furthermore, Epstein and Widener (2010) claim that there is a lack of guidance on the process of identification and evaluation of stakeholders’ interests and their integration in the decisionmaking. On the other hand, it is argued that companies should integrate efficiently sustainability in their strategy (Epstein, 2008). Consistently with this view, Epstein and Roy (2001) report how managers are increasingly requesting support in understanding how the drivers of sustainability performance can be identified, managed and measured, and on how systems and structures can be created to improve sustainability performance. Starting from these considerations it appears that the characteristics of organizational legitimacy and organizational efficiency should also be considered when looking at sustainability accounting. This analysis is particularly interesting because legitimacy and efficiency represent two basic value creators that are crucial for organizations’ survival and success (Perrow, 1970; in Milne and Patten, 2002). The study intended to assess the impact of accounting sustainability on corporate social responsibility. Nonetheless, the relation between accounting sustainability and corporate social responsibility should be examined. Including this concept when looking at sustainability accounting can generate interesting insights. Firstly, the concept of corporate social responsibility should be included in the analysis, with particular attention to the issue of integration of sustainability. Additionally, the main characteristics and dynamics of the concept of corporate social responsibility should be identified, as well as their influence on accounting sustainability. 1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY The objective of this study is to contribute to the existing research on accounting sustainability and corporate social responsibility, and to fill the already highlighted gaps in literature, namely the absence of research that is both empirically and theoretically relevant on sustainability accounting, and that provides insights on the impact of sustainability accounting on corporate social responsibility. In this perspective, the purpose is to explore the relationship between sustainability accounting and corporate social responsibility. Furthermore, the objective is to investigate how sustainability accounting is affected by the concepts of corporate social responsibility, in particular with regard to the need for controlling and steering the company in order to drive corporate and sustainability performance on the one side, and the need to answer to the external pressure of stakeholders on the other side. The purpose for this research is to probe into the evaluation of the impact of accounting sustainability in cooperate social responsibility using MTN LTD as a case study with a view to find out how the organization is performing with accountant sustainability and corporate social responsibility. The following are the specific objectives of the study: • To identify the dimensions of corporate social responsibility. • To evaluate the relative importance of accounting sustainability to MTN LTD. • To evaluate the corporations’ performance on the employee. • To synthesise the results of the relative importance and performance evaluation scores. 1.4. RESEARCH QUESTIONS This study specifically focuses on the relationship between accounting sustainability and corporate social responsibility. The general research question to be examined and explained is as follows: The following research questions have been formulated in order to answer the general research problem: What is the strength of the association between levels of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and accounting sustainability using MTN LTD as case study. 1. How do sustainability leaders manage the function of sustainability accounting? 2. Is there a positive association between accounting sustainability and higher levels of corporate social responsibility (CSR)? 3. How is corporate social responsibility influenced by sustainability accounting, and how can the relation between them be explained? 4. Is there any relationship between higher levels of corporate social responsibility and accounting sustainability? 1.5. RESEARCH HYPOTHESES The following hypotheses are formulated in null form to guild the study. HYPOTHESIS ONE. H0: Accounting sustainability does not have effect on corporate social responsibility. H1: Accounting sustainability has effect on corporate social responsibility HYPOTHESIS TWO. H0: There is no relationship between corporate social responsibility and organizational performance. H1: There is no relationship between corporate social responsibility and organizational performance. 1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY In pursuance of the objective of the study; attention shall be focused on accounting sustainability, the effect of corporate social responsibility. Identifying the levels of accounting sustainability that are used by companies frames the boundary of this study. In addition, this study examines MTN LTD. To support the purpose of this study, relevant literature has been reviewed that seeks to identify gaps that need to be addressed in the literature. 1.7 LIMITATION OF THE STUDY In view of the technicalities involved, information that will be gathered will be limited to those accesses and made available by the respondents and also those gathered from end users. However, the impacts of this limitation will be reduced to the barest minimum. Also, the anticipation of likely problems like unwilling attitude of the respondent to give information they consider confidential and problems associated with the collection of questionnaires. Its major limitation might be the problem of getting information from the institution under study. As a communication company, there is always the fear of giving out information to the public as such, vital information needed might not be easy to get. Time equally will not be left out; leaving school and the issue of finance cannot be ignored as much will be spent in procuring materials. However, with fact and judicial use of the limited resources, reasonable analyses have been carried out in this research work. 1.8 PLAN OF THE STUDY This research consists of five chapters. Chapter one, which is the introductory part contains the background of the study, the statement of the research problem, objectives of the study, research questions among others. Chapter two, deals with the literature review and theoretical framework. Chapter three consists of the research methodology. Chapter four deals with data presentation, analysis, result and interpretation. Chapter five is the summary, conclusion and recommendation. 1.9 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY To achieve the aims and objectives of this research, this research will be based on different sources or means of getting relevant information. The researcher uses both the primary and secondary data in the study. The primary data are collected by the researcher through questionnaire and personal interview in order justify any information given while the secondary data are data collected from journals and libraries. The study used both descriptive and inferential statistics in analyzing the data. Also, simple percentages will be used to analyze the questionnaires. 1.10 RESEARCH DESIGN Research design is the framework that will guide the in the process of collecting, analyzing and interpreting observations. In actual fact, it reveals inferences concerning causal relations and defines the domain of generalizing. It is the research design that brought about the fundamental questions: How would the study be brought into scope of the research? And more importantly, how the study subject would be employed within the research settings (Atoyebi 2013: 36) However, survey method will be used as the basic approach of the study. The method attempts to be fairly representative of the population of interest in its selection of its sample of study. A survey according to Ezejule A.U and ogwo O.E (1990) simply consists of collecting data or information about a large number of people by interviewing a representative sample of them. Descriptive survey method is so popular amongst researchers, that it is often mistaken as being the same with all descriptive research. Thus questionnaire and secondary data were the instruments that will be adopted in the descriptive survey approach to obtain desired information. Therefore, the research design that will be used for the purpose of this study is descriptive survey method. REFERENCES Ballou, B., Casey, R. J., Grenier, J. H., & Heitger, D. L. (2012). Exploring the strategic integration of sustainability initiatives: Opportunities for accounting research. Accounting Horizons, 26(2), 265-288. Balmer, J.M.T., K. Fukukawa and E.R. Gray. 2007. The nature and management of ethical corporate identity: A commentary on corporate identity, corporate social responsibility and ethics. Journal of Business Ethics 76, no. 1: 7-15. Bennett, M., Schaltegger, S., & Zvezdov, D. (2013). Exploring corporate practices in management accounting for sustainability. 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