The role of management accounting within the development of environmental management systems
This thesis describes the role played by management accounting in environmental management initiatives within UK manufacturing operations. According to many authors, management accounting has the potential to contribute towards the generation and management of environmental information by modifying, developing and extending its practices and techniques towards an 'environment-related' form of accounting. However, there is little existing evidence of the widespread involvement of management accounting within UK environmental management. UK manufacturing organizations are generating internal information flows specifically targeted towards dealing with 'environmental'-induced uncertainty, and are also developing environmental management systems (EMS) to reduce their impact on the natural environment. Empirical research to date indicates that such 'environmental' information differs in its generation, uses and level of integration with traditional management information systems, such as management accounting. This thesis adds to this existing knowledge by contributing case study evidence of the role of management accounting within environmental management at three manufacturing sites in the UK. In order to explore the role of management accounting within corporate 'greening', the thesis describes the processes by which environmental ('green') issues permeate organizational boundaries and either become part of, or excluded from, organizational action and consciousness. Within this, the primary focus is to describe how 'green' issues may be rendered 'visible' and 'invisible' by existing management information and accounting systems. The thesis uses a 'middle-range' thinking research paradigm, and critically reviews a diverse range of theoretical and empirical literature in order to construct a number of 'skeletal' theoretical models that describe how organizational 'greening' change arises from specific interactions within social and organizational contexts. Management accounting systems are specifically located within these models, and further 'skeletal' theoretical generalisations are provided for describing the types and uses of environmental information within the firm. The aim of the 'skeletal' models of corporate greening and environmental information is to provide a general framework within which the study can be completed. Whilst a number of general hypothesises are developed from the models, the models require empirical data to give them meaning. To provide this, evidence is collected from three case studies of manufacturing operations in UK locations, together with supplemental empirical evidence from a range of sources. The findings from the empirical data is that management accountants and accounting are not involved in the generation of environmental information, envisage no compelling need to use environment-related accounting and are happy to allow environmental managers to control the EMS. However, management accountants do appear to be knowledgeable about the environmental impacts of the organization, and have an 'awareness' of how environmental costs and impacts can affect the efficiency of business operations.