The following dissertation consists of two studies investigating the relationships between industry controversy and accountability. In Study 1, I develop a theoretical framework for identifying industry controversy and I discuss the applications to accountability in social and environmental accounting (SEA) research. The framework consists of criteria to define industry controversy (a difference of opinion at a societal level about a routine feature) as well as two primary theories (organizational legitimacy and organizational stigma) and two secondary theories (utility attribution and stigma transfer) that can explain organizational outcomes. Study 1 concludes with a discussion of areas of accounting research where this framework can further our understanding of accountability within SEA. Future research can examine the formation of conflicting judgments within society, the management of conflict through accountability mechanisms by organizations, and the responses to accountability by various stakeholder groups. In Study 2, I further investigate one of the propositions related to industry controversy discussed in Study 1. When controversies occur, organizations can be left with a stigma that causes stakeholders to distance themselves, yet the organizational stigma research identifies two types of stigma that organizations experience (event stigma and core stigma). Further, independent rating agencies provide score that purport to quantify the severity of a controversy. I explore investor responses to event stigma and core stigma and how controversy scores influence their judgment and decision making. Using non-professional investors, I run a 2x2 between-subjects experiment. Results suggest that investments decrease more when a high controversy score is given to an organization with core stigma (versus event stigma), but that invests perceived organizations with event stigma to be more responsible for the controversy. The results of this study provide a meaningful contribution to the theory of organizational stigma and our understanding of the effects of quantifying complex non-financial indicators.


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Graduation Date





Roberts, Robin


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Business Administration

Degree Program

Business Administration; Accounting Track


CFE0009747; DP0027855





Release Date

August 2023

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Included in

Accounting Commons