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

Carla Edgley, Michael Jones, Jill Atkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)
1778 Downloads (Pure)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Accounting Review
Issue number1
Early online date15 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015

Structured keywords

  • AF Accountability Sustainability and Governance


  • Institutional logics
  • Materiality
  • Social and environmental reporting assurance (SERA)


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