Institutionalisation of weak conceptions of sustainability in the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism: empirical evidence from Malaysian organisations

Ann Marie Sidhu, Jane Gibbon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine how accounting for sustainable development (SD) in Malaysian organisations decouples economic growth from ecological consequences. The research analyses the empirical evidence of organisational responses and actions that purport to support SD in a developing country.

This study uses a discursive model of institutional theory to examine the relationship between texts, discourse and action within Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) organisations. This study uses both qualitative content and interpretive textual analysis of Malaysian organisations project design documents (PDDs) and interview transcripts to interpret and determine the “conceptions” of SD.

Documentation and interviews with Malaysian CDM organisations show that SD conceptions range from “business as usual” to weak ecological modernisation. The key narratives are both economic and technocratic but have little to do with SD concerns about ecological limitations and social equity.

The empirical evidence provides insights into the motivations and challenges of a developing country's commitment to SD. We perform the study in an accountability space other than corporate financial reporting. Unlike external corporate reports, PDDs are closer to the underlying organisational reality as they are internal project documents made publicly accessible through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, allowing for a more transparent evaluation. The evidence shows how the organisational approach to SD is institutionalised through the mediating role of discourse and texts used by the actors within the CDM.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1220-1245
Number of pages26
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number5
Early online date9 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2021


  • Accountability
  • Carbon
  • CDM
  • Institutional carriers
  • Narratives
  • Sustainable development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Institutionalisation of weak conceptions of sustainability in the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism: empirical evidence from Malaysian organisations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this