Management Seminars: Alice Bryer (University of Bristol)
Alice Bryer (University of Bristol)
1.01 Howard House
Title: Accounting and the challenge of sustainability: comparing cooperatives in Argentina, Spain and the USA
Sustainability, in the broad sense of sustainable development, challenges organizations to rethink their survival and development, to develop practices that recognize their interdependency with their wider social and natural worlds. The paper aims to understand whether and how everyday accounting practices, such as discussing profit targets and budgets, could foster the kinds of reflexivity that might underpin more sustainable organizational practices. Worker cooperatives, with their collectivized and democratic structures, and experiences of struggles to create alternatives, could provide settings in which organizational participants have greater possibilities to develop reflexive accounting practices, allowing wider insights. The paper develops and illustrates this argument through a cross-cultural comparative perspective, comparing cases in Argentina, Spain and the USA. It offers three main conclusions and contributions. First, the paper develops current understandings of accounting’s performativity. It identifies a set of reflexive capacities, which challenge the economization processes that objectify profit, and help the members to link their survival and growth to their wider community and environment. Second, the paper contributes to debates about participative and interactive forms of accounting. It traces how actors can enlist accounting attributes to foster the egalitarian conditions, which allow collaborative and creative work effort in the area of sustainability to flourish. Third, the paper develops the literature on sustainability and accounting. Answering calls for an alternative organizational perspective, it shows how developing reflexive forms of accounting can contribute to more sustainable organizational practices with emancipatory effects. The substantive implications are that accounting may support qualitative shifts in social relations, where profit comes to mean that the members can consciously develop as part of sustainable communities and eco-systems.