Exploring accounting and accountability in Scottish salmon farming : an industry in crisis : the importance of risk perception, risk communication and reflexivity
The thesis draws upon an arena study on the accounting and accountability processes used within a business sector under intense public and regulatory scrutiny in terms of its social, economic and ecological risks. It investigates the importance risk perception and Social and Environmental Accounting had on the business decisions made in the context of operations of the salmon farming industry in Scotland and specifically how these affected the decision making criteria of some salmon farmers to switch into organic forms of production. Risk is conventionally defined as the product of the probability and the utility of some future event. Objective measures of risk obey all the formal laws of combining probabilities. Perceptions of risk, however, are inherently subjective and subject to cultural shaping and do not necessarily accord with objective measures. Social and psychological factors are clearly important considerations when translating technical assessments of risk into the terms of everyday language and experience and when formulating procedures for controlling risks in the domain of public policy. Some subjective perceptions are incorrect. Others however reflect real differences in political or ethical positions, or in the choice of the desired balance of risk and reward. Some objective measures, on the other hand, have been shown to be statistical artefacts or the results of unconscious experimental bias. In this light this research builds upon previous findings, which highlight the influence of culture, communication and reflexivity in risk perception in contemporary societies. The research took the form of an arena case-study on the salmon fariiiing industry in a certain geographic area of Scotland and examined the inter/intra-relationships of the industry with the regulatory bodies involved and the other stakeholders in order to explore the accountability practices. The interviews and documentary analysis revealed an active accountability network and a set of discourses ripe for Social and Environmental Accounting which is not there. However, the accountability network was far from reflexive and could be seen as legitimating the status quo rather than governing the risks associated with salmon farming. This evaluation of accounting and accountability processes within this specific context demonstrated the importance of locating social and environmental accounting responses within wider accountability discourses. It is suggested that all accounting practices should become more reflexive in nature if they are to remain relevant in these wider societal accountability discourses.