Strong structuration and carbon accounting: A position-practice perspective of policy development at the macro, industry and organizational levels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to utilize the three abstract-concrete levels of ontology of strong structuration theory (strong ST) to examine how, and to what extent, was the development of carbon accounting frameworks at the policy, industry, and organizational levels enabled by external structures as conditions of action, that is, what was the nature of active agency within a field of position-practice relations that led to the development of these frameworks. Design/methodology/approach: A case study was undertaken drawing upon interviews that were undertaken between 2008 and 2011 at the industry and organizational levels as well as documentary evidence relating to carbon accounting policy development at the macro, or policy level. Findings: The parliamentary committee hearings into the development of the carbon price legislation represented fields of position-practice relationships which highlighted the interplay of the internal structures, capabilities and the roles of both power and trust of the agent(s)-in-focus. A meso-level analysis of the Victorian water industry highlighted how it was able to mediate the exercise of power by the macro level through the early adoption of carbon accounting frameworks. At the ontic or micro level of the individual water business, the development of a greenhouse strategy was also the outcome of position-practice relationships which highlighted the interplay of the internal structures and dispositions of the agent(s)-in-focus. The position-practice relationships at both the industry and organizational level were characterized by both soft power and trust. Research limitations/implications: Future research could investigate how the withdrawal of the carbon pricing mechanism in Australia has affected the development of carbon accounting practices whilst overseas research could examine the extent to which carbon accounting frameworks were the outcome of position-practice relationships. Practical implications: Given the global significance of carbon accounting, this paper provides an overview as to how the early adoption of voluntary carbon accounting practices resulted in a reduction in carbon emissions within the water industry and therefore limited its liability for the carbon price. Originality/value: This paper illustrates how the strong ST ontological concept of position-practices can be utilized at the macro, meso, and ontic levels and how these relationships mediated the impact of the carbon price upon both the water industry and the individual water business.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1204-1233
Number of pages30
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2016

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