Regulatory influence on sustainability reporting: evidence from Murray–Darling Basin Authority in Australia

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Purpose: The purpose of this study is to explore the sustainability reporting of a public sector organisation (PSO). This study focuses on socio-environmental practices of a major agro-economic platform in Australia – the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) to provide a unique perspective on water resource management and sustainability. Design/methodology/approach: This longitudinal qualitative case study collects published data from the MDBA’s annual reports over 21 years (1998–2018) and considers economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainability using legitimacy and institutional theory. Findings: This study finds that the MDBA’s sustainability reporting is influenced by its response to the Water Act 2007 and the Basin Plan 2012 regulations and to maintain its legitimacy with stakeholders. The MDBA wished to pursue sustainability through integrating these regulations complemented by stakeholder expectations. Although all categories increased in reporting, the environment category has the highest primacy in achieving a healthy basin through sustainable water management for the long-term benefit of the stakeholders. Research limitations/implications: This study contributes to the PSOs sustainability reporting literature. Particularly, this study provides insights of sustainability reporting patterns and practices over a long period through a longitudinal study. This study contributes new knowledge on the awareness of PSOs sustainability practice which has implications for governments, regulators, policymakers, managers and other stakeholders. Originality/value: The Australian PSOs setting is under-researched from the perspective of a regulatory framework. The MDBA case provides unique insights on water resource management and sustainability which has value for many countries around the world.

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Meditari Accountancy Research

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