Exploring the Perceived Barriers for Using Gamification as a Technique for Increasing Stakeholder Engagement in Sustainability Accounting and Its Reporting

  • Ian Blakesley

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The influence of social media on society leads to interesting, unanticipated consequences, complexities, opportunities and threats. These are especially prevalent upon key issues of public interest, causing them to spread more quickly and influence more deeply. The climate emergency is one such issue necessitating a search for more sustainable business approaches. Stakeholder engagement in such initiatives is critical. One approach to achieving the desired engagement is through Sustainability Accounting and Reporting (SAR), which summarises organisational impacts on the environment and society alongside financial performance.

Accordingly, this research identified perceived barriers to stakeholder engagement in SAR data online. This research applied gamification to assess its effectiveness as a proof of concept in mitigating these barriers. The central generalisable premise of this research is that technology should be used to positively involve stakeholders in topics such as SAR that are perceived disengaging but of critical importance to society.

Significant research gaps were identified through a comprehensive review of literature. A contribution to knowledge was built based on a revision to Stakeholder Theory. A two-fold contribution to practice comprised suggestions to increase engagement in SAR data in a practical business context alongside an interactive gamification prototype.

Collection of primary data was completed using a two-stage exploratory sequential mixed methods research design incorporating semi-structured interviews and user acceptance testing (UAT) of a gamification prototype. The interviews strived to identify barriers to engagement in SAR, and the online prototype tested if these barriers generalised to a larger sample whist conducting a proof-of-concept exercise on the online prototype.

The results suggested that barriers generalised to a larger sample in 75% of cases. 90% of participants viewed the prototype as an acceptable proof-of-concept, and 61% approved of the use of reward systems as an appropriate method of engagement in SAR. A novel conceptual model was built on the findings of this primary research. This model identified antecedents, barriers and mediators of engagement in SAR. It incorporated the influence of public opinion as a key mediator, introducing the concept of “amplifiers” to engagement and motivation over time, in a novel approach underpinning the contribution to knowledge. This was combined with a contribution to practice in the form of suggestions for new techniques, technological approaches and systems in an operational business context.

Applications for future research were identified in follow-on studies and immersive game research techniques, as a further significant contribution. Significant propensity to create further knowledge of value in other domains such as tourism or education was also highlighted.
Date of Award26 Apr 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorBen Sanders (Supervisor) & Denise Hewlett (Supervisor)


  • Sustainability
  • Gamification
  • Stakeholder Theory
  • Engagement
  • Prototype
  • Mixed Methods

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