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The adoption of the materiality concept in social and environmental reporting assurance: a field study approach

Edgley, C. R., Jones, M. J. and Atkins, J. (2015) The adoption of the materiality concept in social and environmental reporting assurance: a field study approach. The British Accounting Review, 47 (1). pp. 1-18. ISSN 0890-8389

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/


This study investigates the logics or values that shape the social and environmental reporting (SER) and SER assurance (SERA) process. The influence of logics is observed through a study of the conceptualisation and operationalisation of the materiality concept by accounting and non-accounting assurors and their assurance statements. We gathered qualitative data from interviews with both accounting and non-accounting assurors. We analysed the interplay between old and new logics that are shaping materiality as a reporting concept in SER. SER is a rich field in which to study the dynamics of change because it is a voluntary, unregulated, qualitative reporting arena. It has a broad, stakeholder audience, where accounting and non-accounting organisations are in competition. There are three key findings. First, the introduction of a new, stakeholder logic has significantly changed the meaning and role of materiality. Second, a more versatile, performative, social understanding of materiality was portrayed by assurors, with a forward-looking rather than a historic focus. Third, competing logics have encouraged different beliefs about materiality, and practices, to develop. This influenced the way assurors theorised the concept and interpreted outcomes. A patchwork of localised understandings of materiality is developing. Policy implications both in SERA and also in financial audit are explored.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Henley Business School > Business Informatics, Systems and Accounting
ID Code:38970
Uncontrolled Keywords:Institutional logics; Materiality; Social and Environmental Reporting Assurance (SERA)


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