Triggering sustainability communication in a B2B context : combining action research and sensemaking
Apostol, O., Mäkelä, M., Heikkilä, K., Höyssä, M., Kalliomäki, H., Jokinen, L., & Saarni, J. (2021). Triggering sustainability communication in a B2B context : combining action research and sensemaking. Accounting, Auditing and Accountability journal, 34(4), 849-876. https://doi.org/10.1108/aaaj-08-2019-4125
Published inAccounting, Auditing and Accountability journal
DisciplineYritysten ympäristöjohtaminenBasic or discovery scholarshipCorporate Environmental ManagementBasic or discovery scholarship
© Oana Apostol, Marileena Mäkelä, Katariina Heikkilä, Maria Höyssä, Helka Kalliomäki, Leena Jokinen and Jouni Saarni. Published by Emerald Publishing Limited.
Purpose The paper explores processes associated with the adoption of corporate sustainability communication in a B2B context. It employs a combined action research and sensemaking approach to document moments that precede the initiation of external sustainability communication. Design/methodology/approach The paper is the outcome of an action research project, where we examine the case of one industrial company that was silent on its multiple sustainability-related practices, but recently decided to become more transparent to the outside world. A processual approach to sensemaking is adopted to show how organisational and non-organisational members actively participated in meaning co-construction. Findings Corporate silence can be disrupted by triggering events that cause moments of sudden realisation for organisational members, eventually leading to the initiation of sensemaking processes inside the organisation. Once this occurs, the possibility of externally communicating sustainability appears a feasible and strategic approach to pursue. We document how different actors are involved in meaning co-construction and how the entire process of sensemaking unfolds. Practical implications A sensemaking approach sheds light on the complexity of sustainability communication, where multiple actors are involved. This is a useful approach to consider in order to couple sustainability with other organisational practices. Moreover, sensemaking opens a window of opportunity for various societal actors' interventions to shape the role and content of sustainability communication. Originality/value The paper offers an original, theoretically informed methodological contribution to the literature on sustainability communication by coupling a sensemaking approach with action research. The approach is employed to examine the role of internal organisational actors in sustainability reporting processes, an area that has received scant attention. ...
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- Kauppakorkeakoulu 
Related funder(s)Academy of Finland
Funding program(s)Strategic research programmes, AoF
Additional information about fundingThe authors wish to thank Tekes the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (grant number 4116/31/2015) for funding this research. Oana Apostol acknowledges the financial support from the Academy of Finland research project (decision no. 324215) under the leadership of Professor Eija Vinnari. Marileena Mäkelä’s work was supported by the Strategic Research Council at the Academy of Finland under Grant , project CICAT2025. The authors thank Paul Healy and Kari Lukka for their constructive suggestions on earlier versions of the paper. The authors also acknowledge useful comments received at the following events: 1st Ireland Congress on Social and Environmental Accounting Research Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick, Ireland, October 2016; Interdisciplinary Accounting Discussion Group, University of Turku, December 2016; internal seminar of the Department of Accounting and Finance, University of Turku, April 2019; seminar at the Royal Holloway University of London in June 2019 and Respman seminar at Tampere University in September 2020. ...
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