Macquarie University
01whole.pdf (2.44 MB)

Corporate water accounting and accountability in an Australian context

Download (2.44 MB)
posted on 2022-03-29, 01:50 authored by James Hazelton
This thesis examines accountability for corporate water use in an Australian context and the role of accountants in the provision of sustainability information. The thesis employs both theoretical and empirical approaches to determine the optimal approach for corporate water disclosure practices, and regulation to improve accountability. The thesis includes four papers, each of which explores a different dimension of corporate water accounting and accountability. -- The thesis employs philosophical inquiry to answer key normative questions regarding the role of corporations in society, and community rights to corporate information. The extent to which a corporation can be considered a moral agent, and therefore capable of voluntarily providing unbiased information, is considered in Paper 1, The Amorality of Public Corporations. This paper engages with the work of Friedman (1970) and derivative arguments, and argues that for-profit entities are amoral entities due to the constraints on corporate autonomy imposed by competitive markets; hence regulation is required to align corporate and societal interests. The question of what rights the community have to access water information is addressed in Paper 2, Accounting as a Human Right - The Case of Water Information. This paper follows the approach of Griffin (2008) and Sen (1993, 2004), and argues a detailed case that access to corporate water information may be regarded as constituting a human right, in part because of its centrality to the achievement of other important human rights. For this reason, regulation is appropriate to compel corporate water-related disclosures, but such disclosures may extend beyond corporate sustainability reports. -- The empirical dimension of the thesis examines how a right to corporate water-related disclosures might best be realised in practice. One option is product labelling, which is explored in Paper 3, Corporate Water Accountability - The Role of Water Labels Given Non-Fungible Extractions. On the basis of a detailed review of literature on water footprinting, and interviews with water experts, the paper concludes that the potential of this approach is dependent upon improved water-measurement technology, and a universally accepted definition of water stress. -- A more promising option is site-level reporting, which is considered in Paper 4, Australian Corporate Water Accountability: a Site-Level Perspective. On the basis of interviews with water experts and evaluation of site-level reporting practices of Sydney's largest water users over the period 2005-2009, this paper concludes that site-level reporting is desirable and feasible, but is neither required nor practised under the prevailing reporting regime. -- Taken collectively, these findings suggest that a community right to corporate water-related information exists, and is best realised via mandatory site-level reporting, facilitated by governmental water managers. The thesis therefore calls for this requirement to be included in both Australian and international water-reporting frameworks. More broadly, the thesis posits that accountants can make an important contribution to improving corporate sustainability reporting, but only by engaging with subject matter experts and jettisoning the belief that such reporting must mirror financial reports in terms of format and scope.


Table of Contents

1. Introduction -- 2. Paper 1: The amorality of public corporations -- 3. Paper 2: Accounting as a human right - the case of water information -- 4. Paper 3: Corporate water accountability - the role of water labels given non-fungible extractions -- 5. Paper 4: Australian corporate water accountability - a site-level perspective -- 6. Conclusions.


Bibliography: pages: 274-333 Two articles were suppressed due to copyright reasons. Thesis by publication. "A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Department of Environment and Geography, Macquarie University".

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Science, Department of Environment and Geography

Department, Centre or School

Department of Environment and Geography

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Gregory Walkerden


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright James Hazelton 2013.




1 online resource (xiii, 333 pages)

Former Identifiers

mq:31119 2116742