Conceptual shifts in accounting: Transplanting the notion of boundary from financial to non-financial reporting


In 1998 Miller, in his paper titled “The margins of accounting” observed that “By looking at the margins of accounting, we can understand how this influential body of expertise is formed and transformed” (Miller, 1998: 618). Drawing on this analogy, the boundaries of reporting and the ways these are defined and re-defined, as a consequence of the relationships organisations form with other entities from time to time, and their substantive nature provide insights about the business and its business model. Accordingly, an examination of reporting boundaries helps to better understand and appreciate the objective of an organisation, the logic that underlies its business model and how that is ‘reflected’ and communicated through the reporting entity’s financial statements – which may or may not align with the boundaries of the ‘organisation’. Despite the relevance of reporting boundaries as a critical aspect of the accounting discipline, it remains a relatively unexplored area in the literature. Accordingly, the aim of this work is to offer an initial overview on how the boundaries of reporting have (not) changed in response to the broadening scope of reporting to address both financial and ‘non-financial’ information (e.g. sustainability, governance and intangibles) and attempts to promote greater integration between both sets of information (IIRC, 2013). In particular, the analysis draws on the interpretative schemes of Zambon (1996) and Zambon and Zan (2000) and is combined with the concept of ‘transplantation’. The manner in which reporting boundaries are defined for both financial and non-financial reporting is investigated and compared. This comparison enables similarities and differences between the definition of the ‘reporting boundary’ to be problematised and explored for both financial and non-financial reporting.

Keywords: Reporting boundaries, financial reporting, non-financial reporting, transplantation.

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