Corporate Social Accounting, Accountability, and Company-Community Conflict in Mining

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

The conflict-prevention and peacebuilding effects of accountability on company-community conflict have been advocated in the business for peace literature. There is, however, limited research on the nature of the linkages between accountability practices and company-community conflict. This thesis investigates the effects of social accounting as an accountability mechanism on company-community conflict in mining. In doing so, the thesis also provides much needed empirical evidence on corporate social accounting and accountability to local communities. The thesis applies a critical realist methodology and a single instrumental case study strategy to collect and analyse data from observing one stakeholder engagement meeting, two company procedure manuals, and twenty-nine semi-structured interviews with company representatives, NGOs, local communities, regulators, and the media. The thesis finds that company-community conflict within the case study setting proceeds along the voice and enforcement dimensions argued by Andrews et al. (2017) and Le Billon et al. (2016). Corrosive agency and statutory regulatory capture is a plausible explanation for the interactions between the structural and contextual elements of the case study environment and the conflict. Regarding social accounting and accountability, the study finds that stakeholder engagement is the sole social accounting mechanism between the case study company and its host communities. The engagement is driven by positivist rather than ethical stakeholder considerations. The level of engagement attained is medium (rungs 4 – 7, token gestures of participation) and results in deficiencies in standard accountability due to weaknesses in consequences and outcomes mainly, and in information and debate to a lesser extent. The existence of regulatory gaps in an environment that is susceptible to capture explains the observed accountability deficits. Due to these accountability deficits, stakeholder engagement has a limited positive effect on company-community conflict as it enables voice (with some shortcomings) but not enforcement. Escalated conflict is delayed rather than prevented. Local communities also attempt to use conflict to enforce accountability obligations with short-lived success. Surrogate accountability within the case study setting suffers from similar deficiencies, albeit to a lesser extent. Surrogate accountability also has a limited positive effect on company-community conflict due to perceived regulatory capture and a consequent lack of trust in regulatory surrogates. Calls to improve corporate social responsibility and accountability practices through regulation must address the potential for regulatory capture. The thesis contributes to the conflict and social accounting literature by drawing theoretical and empirical linkages between social accounting, accountability, and conflict. The thesis’ focus and findings on corporate social accounting to local communities, surrogate accountability, and regulatory capture are also additional contributions to the social accounting literature.
Date of Award2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRafael Macatangay (Supervisor) & Theresa Dunne (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Social accounting
  • Accountability
  • Stakeholder Engagement
  • Regulatory Capture
  • Company-Community Conflict
  • Mining
  • Local Communities
  • Critical Realism
  • Surrogate Accountability
  • Conflict

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