Accounting & Business Research

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• Rethink on management accounting by Manchester Business School highlights wider societal impacts of practices
• Professor Sven Modell leads calls for an ‘inside out’ approach to discipline
• Management accounting practices influence markets in which companies operate and their external regulation and governance.

A new, special issue of Accounting and Business Research, edited by Manchester Business School’s Professor Sven Modell, is calling on management accounting researchers and practitioners to consider the potential societal impact of management accounting practices.

The special issue argues for an ‘inside-out’ approach to management accounting, in order to explore the societal relevance of research and practice. Research into the field should no longer be confined to individual organisations or intra-organisational processes and practices. Rather, it should also be extended to focus on how management accounting affects and is relevant to a broad range of interests and groups in society. This wider, societal perspective has largely been overlooked in debates about the relevance of management accounting research for practice.

The special issue also highlights the consequences of taking this approach to businesses themselves. It points to opportunities for businesses to use methods of management accounting to directly influence the broader, societal environment in which they operate but also draws attention to the unintended consequences that such attempts may have. For example, costing practices can be used to price services delivered to specific groups of beneficiaries but also mask and enable politically charged rationing processes. Similarly, performance measurement practices get implicated in regulatory processes and can have a powerful impact on the interests served by private and public sector organisations.

Modell writes: “In addition to constituting a mechanism of strategic goal alignment in individual organisations, there is growing evidence of its use as a template for reforms and political regulation of especially public services in various countries.”

The special issue, The Societal Relevance of Management Accounting, includes contributions from prominent accounting academics from the UK as well as Australia, Finland and the Netherlands and is available in the special issue of Accounting and Business Research.

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