University of Leicester
2017linlphd.pdf (1.48 MB)

Institutional Problems for Chinese Environmental Accounting: Evidence from the Accounting Profession

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posted on 2017-03-14, 15:25 authored by Li Lin
The global environmental crisis has turned accounting scholars’ attention to environmental accounting (hereafter EA). With the gap of EA research and practice between China and the western world, it is necessary to elaborate on this gap through accounting professionals’ environmental awareness (perceptions), which has tended to become the key to adopting EA practices in accounting firms. This has led to the main research question: what are accounting professionals’ perceptions of EA? To illustrate what factors would lead accounting firms (not) adopting EA practices, institutional theory is used as the main framework to identify key issues that lead firms to resemble each other. Legitimacy and stakeholder analysis are adopted as a supplement of institutional analysis to explain how accounting firms respond to influences brought by legitimate concerns and interest groups, which has constructed this multi-framework. This thesis is conducted through 35 semi-structured interviews. Interviewees are invited from different scales of Chinese accounting firms on a top-down basis. Documentary review is used as a supplement of the interviews. Thematic analysis is employed to elaborate on how institutional drivers shape EA across different categories. This thesis has identified that clients’ demands tend to be the key for (not) adopting EA, which can be reflected through participants’ knowledge structure, education and training, practices and the adoption of practical guidelines – this leads to the branding effects of EA in the Big Four, which reflects a practical gap between the Big Four and domestic firms. More specifically, this thesis has reasserted that organizations tend to model themselves on others perceived to be successful in response to certain uncertainty; whereas the clarity of ‘successful organizations’ and ‘uncertainty’ becomes the key institutional driver for firms (not) adopting EA practices. As a supplementary framework, stakeholder and legitimacy analysis tends to reflect how EA is perceived and influenced through different interested parties. In general, this thesis has demonstrated a rather low environmental awareness amongst the Chinese accounting profession, suggesting that EA is developed to enable instead of offsetting the inequity between the Big Four and domestic firms.



Lightfoot, Geoffrey; Weir, Kenneth

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Management

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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