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Publication - Professor Michael Jones

    The adoption of the materiality concept in social and environmental reporting assurance

    A field study approach


    Edgley, C, Jones, M & Atkins, J, 2015, ‘The adoption of the materiality concept in social and environmental reporting assurance: A field study approach’. British Accounting Review, vol 47., pp. 1-18


    This study investigates the logics or values that shape the social and environmental reporting (SER) and SER assurance (SERA) process. The influence of logics is observed through a study of the conceptualisation and operationalisation of the materiality concept by accounting and non-accounting assurors and their assurance statements. We gathered qualitative data from interviews with both accounting and non-accounting assurors. We analysed the interplay between old and new logics that are shaping materiality as a reporting concept in SER. SER is a rich field in which to study the dynamics of change because it is a voluntary, unregulated, qualitative reporting arena. It has a broad, stakeholder audience, where accounting and non-accounting organisations are in competition. There are three key findings. First, the introduction of a new, stakeholder logic has significantly changed the meaning and role of materiality. Second, a more versatile, performative, social understanding of materiality was portrayed by assurors, with a forward-looking rather than a historic focus. Third, competing logics have encouraged different beliefs about materiality, and practices, to develop. This influenced the way assurors theorised the concept and interpreted outcomes. A patchwork of localised understandings of materiality is developing. Policy implications both in SERA and also in financial audit are explored.

    Full details in the University publications repository