Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal
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This article seeks to unravel the mechanisms through which financial actors agreed upon a sustainability accounting standard without financializing social and environmental issues, i.e., assigning a monetary value to sustainability.
The article examines the Reporting and Assessment Framework created by the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UN-PRI), the leading reporting sustainability framework in the asset management industry. It relies on a longitudinal case study that draws upon interviews, participant observation, and archival data.
The article demonstrates that the conception of the framework was a funnelling process of sustainability valuation comprising two co-constituted mechanisms: a process of valorization – judging what is deemed of value – and a process of evaluation – agreeing on how to assess value. This valuation process unfolded by creating the framework, thanks to two enabling conditions: the creation of non-prescriptive evaluative criteria that avoided financialization and the valuation support of an enabling organization.
The article helps understand how an industry can encompass the diversity of motives and practices associated with the adoption of sustainability by its economic actors while suggesting a common framework to report on and assess those practices. It uncovers alternatives to the financialization process of sustainability accounting standards. The article also offers insights into the advantages and inconveniences of such a framework. The article enriches the literature in the sociology of valuation, financialization, and sustainability accounting.