Moral economy, performative materialism, and political rhetorics of sustainability accounting

Chandana Alawattage*, Chaya Jayathileka, Rakshitha Hitibandara, Sashika Withanage

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)
    2 Downloads (Pure)


    Using the concepts of ‘moral economy’ and ‘performative materialism’ in a case study of a Sri Lankan bank that has received awards and commendations for its sustainability reports, this study explores and theorises moral contradictions of how sustainability is enacted in a corporate setting. Its specific empirical observation reveals how enacting sustainability involves four key elements: redefining corporate morality, mattering morality, objectifying morality through accountability, and valorising morality in a moral market. While attaching a new morality to corporate profits, these elements enable greenwashing to get institutionalised as a celebrated and rewarded business practice. This research contributes to critical accounting studies by empirically explaining how a new set of moral practices, objects, and markets are constructed in the name of sustainability reporting and by illustrating how the theoretical notions of moral economy and performative materialism can shed light on critiquing the ways sustainability reporting regimes are constructed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number102507
    JournalCritical Perspectives on Accounting
    Early online date12 Sept 2023
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Sept 2023


    • Sustainability accounting
    • Moral economy
    • Performative materialism


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