Individual accountability through sustainability control within a Swedish Public Sector Organisation


  • Leanne Johnstone Örebro University School of Business
  • David Yates Sheffield University Management School
  • Sebastian Nylander Örebro University School of Business


accountability; new generation accountability; public sector organisation; sustainability control.


Accountability is often framed as an organisational level phenomenon in extant social and environmental accounting research and there is a lack of understanding in terms of how internal accountability for sustainability takes shape within organisations. This paper addresses how the sustainability mandate translates into individual employee behaviour in a Swedish public sector organisation, finding that while hierarchical ideas regarding sustainability are present, these are rarely instrumental in shaping individual accountability for sustainability to any true extent. Rather, collegial pressure and sustainability minded personnel drive the sustainable behaviour of employees in a more incremental way. Further still, hierarchical accounts rarely serve to individualise and isolate employees, but rather obscure individual accountability demands. Thus, socialising forms of accountability are viewed as just as important as hierarchical forms for sustainability. Although interestingly, these socialisation processes are not only embedded into relationships within the organisation but are also the result of extra-organisational familial influences and/or private beliefs and values. For managers, the findings suggest the need to build on the sustainability mandate through employee socialisation processes to reinforce corporate governance systems and controls in reinforce the necessary accountability dynamic for sustainability performance.





1.1. Accounting and Sustainability