Innovation in managing sustainability: a tentative integration of accounting for employee health and safety
Purpose of the paper: This study analyses the implementation and integration of an accounting instrument for employee health and safety. It discusses whether and how the device and related financial information support employee health and safety decision making.
Methodology: The framework focuses on the technical, organisational and cognitive factors that may operate as enabling or hindering factors during the implementation and integration process of an accounting instrument. A multiple case analysis of two medium-sized Italian waste management companies was carried out following an interventionist research approach lasted two years.
Findings: The analysis reveals that none of the two companies integrated the instrument despite the positive outputs revealed during the implementation phase. A set of interrelated technical, organisational and cognitive barriers emerged. In particular, the difficulty of generating corporate interest in the instrument prevented its integration. Cognitive factors, such as empathy towards workers and fear of potential new injuries, operated in an unstable way, enabling the implementation but preventing the integration. The device, however, was able to support specific health and safety decisions during the test phase, even though the link between financial information and employee safety was fragile.
Research limits: The limitations of the study concern the potential biases of scholars related to the engagement within the organisations.
Practical implications: The results may support the development process of accounting instruments dedicated to employee health and safety. The results suggest that the integration of a new accounting instrument requires the simultaneous presence of technical, organisational and cognitive enablers to support the change from the company’s routinised ways of acting and thinking.
Originality of the paper: The research offers an in-depth analysis of the development process of an accounting instrument. The study presents novel insights into the relationship between employee health and safety and accounting, which represents an unexplored and fertile area of investigation for social accounting studies.
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