Can triple bottom line reporting become a cycle for 'double loop' learning and radical change?

Michael Mitchell, Allan Curtis, Penelope Davidson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
121 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to critically evaluate the outcomes of a research project involving collaboration with an irrigation company seeking to improve outcomes from its triple bottom line (TBL) reporting process. Given the imminent basin-wide crisis within which the organisation operates due to unsustainable over allocation of water for irrigation, the paper aims to offer insights from this context as a microcosm of the global sustainability crisis.Design/methodology/approach: The paper is based on action research with a case study organisation. Organisational learning theory is used to assess the quality and depth of learning that occurred in terms of the prospects for the radical changes needed to retreat from ongoing unsustainable water resource management practices.Findings: The organisation's failure to link past learnings with future strategising undermined the potential for TBL reporting to develop into an iterative learning cycle that can effect change. While 'small wins' were achieved, these need to be seen as part of a broader paradigmatic change movement if they are to result in enhanced sustainability. Originality/value: The paper is based on a case study that builds from our review of the literature that identifies ways to improve the process of reporting rather than focusing on report content alone (Mitchell et al., 2008). The case study benefited from substantial access and interaction with the organisation's internal stakeholders and offers new insights about how to improve the process of TBL reporting that builds on theoretical and experiential perspectives of other critical researchers undertaking field-based engagement research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1048-1068
Number of pages21
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012

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