Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 154, Issue 3, pp 797–812 | Cite as

Sense-Making Resource Efficiency Through “Sustainability” Reports

  • Matthew EganEmail author
Original Paper


This paper explores the nature and antecedents of a unique “sustainability” reporting initiative developed within a large Australian family-run manufacturing company. In so doing, the paper responds to calls for empirical insight into how accounting can inform organisational objectives relating to sustainability. Despite known flaws in the data, the company’s weekly sustainability reports had become a critical support to on-going sense-making, driven by deliberate strategies focused on resource efficiency, and understanding the business. While the contributions of these initiatives to broader global sustainability concerns were limited, the case provides insight into a well-intentioned and passionate journey towards the unknown of sustainability. The case explains how management distinguished related activities from core economic objectives. What is important here is that the CEO availed space for management to explore the moral dimensions of corporate activity. There was opportunity to now enhance that space, by encouraging engagement with a broader range of stakeholders, and a broader range of sustainability impacts.


Sustainability Sustainability accounting Sustainability reporting Sense-making 



The author wishes to acknowledge comments provided on earlier iterations of this paper from delegates attending Monforma in Melbourne in February 2015, a Jill McKinnon seminar at Macquarie University in Sydney in 2015, a seminar at Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2015, and at the 14th Australasian Centre on Social and Environmental Accounting Research Conference (A-CSEAR), in Sydney in December 2015.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

The author has no financial relationship, and otherwise no known potential conflict of interest, with the case study organisation explored in this study. In this study, semi-structured interviews have been undertaken with adult human participants, all of whom provided informed consent to be interviewed. All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments. The author has full control of all primary data which are available to the journal to review if requested.

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Discipline of AccountingThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia

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