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Accountability and governance in pursuit of sustainable development goals: conceptualising how governments create value.

Abhayawansa, S. and Adams, C. A. and Neesham, C (2021) 'Accountability and governance in pursuit of sustainable development goals: conceptualising how governments create value.', Accounting, auditing & accountability journal., 34 (4). pp. 923-945.


Purpose – Drawing on Adams (2017a) conceptualisation of value creation by organisations published in the Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, the purpose of this paper is to develop a conceptualisation of how national governments can create value for society and the economy through their approach to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Design/methodology/approach – An initial conceptual framework was developed from literature situated at the intersection of accountability, public policy and sustainability/sustainable development. The authors’ review of extant research on national policy development on value creation, sustainability and the SDGs identified gaps in (understanding of) approaches to national accountability and national governance (by state and civil society) processes. The subsequent thematic analysis of 164 written submissions made to the Australian Senate inquiry on the SDGs between December 2017 and March 2018, together with transcripts of five public hearings where 49 individuals and organisations appeared as witnesses during the second half of 2018, focussed on addressing these gaps. Findings – Input to the Australian Senate Inquiry on the SDGs overwhelmingly emphasised the importance of transparency and stakeholder participation in accountability systems, commenting on data gathering, measuring and communicating. There was an emphasis on the need to involve all parts of society, including business, investors and civil society, and for strong central co-ordination by the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. These data allowed the authors to refine the conceptualisation of how national governments can enhance social and economic value through a focus on the UN SDGs and their approach to accounting, accountability and governance. Practical implications – The findings have implications: for national governments in developing approaches to achieve sustainable development; and, for supranational bodies such as the UN in developing agreements, frameworks and guidance for national governments. Originality/value – Building on the extant literature about how global governance should be engaged to improve accountability in achieving the SDGs, the conceptual framework developed through the study shifts focus to national governance and accountability, and provides a blueprint for national governments to create value for the economy and society in the face of global sustainable development issues.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0.
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Publisher statement:© Emerald Publishing Limited. This AAM is provided for your own personal use only. It may not be used for resale, reprinting, systematic distribution, emailing, or for any other commercial purpose without the permission of the publisher.
Date accepted:16 February 2021
Date deposited:23 February 2021
Date of first online publication:09 March 2021
Date first made open access:17 May 2021

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