Special Issue-Sustainable Accounting Reporting: Proposal

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationSpecial issue


Currently, the implementation of sustainability accounting and reporting (SAR) is fragmented. Yet, if the world is to tackle climate and pollution crises, it needs to urgently transition away from fossil fuel and plastic configurations to more sustainable ones. This transformative journey will involve accounting reforms to enrich stakeholder information re the environmental impact of an organisation’s activities. The special issue hosts papers that bridge environmental and accounting disciplines that analyzes and reflects on entity sustainability performance reporting. There are opposing views on SAR reform pathways. Experts dispute the notion of ‘materiality’ or significant reporting impacts. Anglo-Saxon accounting bodies tend to be traditional and investor-minded. They advocate for a single financial materiality focus and prudent, incremental reporting system reform. Global and European institutions (UN, EU, GRI) seek to broaden materiality beyond financial impacts. Their alternative ‘double materiality’ preference considers a broader spectrum of stakeholders compared to traditional, conventional accounting and reporting systems. Both the traditional single and broader double accounting reform perspectives have theoretical as well as pragmatic advantages and disadvantages. Although the standard setting landscape is evolving, division, paradox and contention remain. Notwithstanding sustainability accounting and reporting contention, climatic and ecological challenges impel urgent resolution.

Anthropogenic and industrial pressures accelerate emission-intensive construction activity, responsible for 38% of global energy-related CO2 emissions. Within decades, climate change could dent global GDP by 11–14%. Within the next seventy years, sea levels are likely to rise by 1m. In a worst-case scenario, if all of Greenland’s ice sheet were to melt or other tipping points reached, the rise could be as much as 7m. Worryingly, the seemingly inexorable increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations intimates we are drifting towards such a doomsday scenario. Whilst in the 1970s, the annual increase in this GHG was 1 ppm; it now exceeds 2.4 ppm per year. Conventional economic and accounting performance metrics, because they tend to ignore either environmental or social considerations, may be necessary but are insufficient entity or project performance indicators. They simply ignore the external costs of many construction, industrial or agricultural activities. Notable external costs include ecosystem depletion or habitat loss, plastic contamination, air and water pollution. Since the 1950’s, the annual world output of plastic has increased almost 200 times from 2 to over 380 million tonnes of which 8-12 million tonnes is washed into the sea (2-3%). The mismanaged disposal of plastic waste, mainly from lower income countries with weak disposal infrastructure (notably India, Bangladesh and the Philippines), causes marine plastic pollution that threatens the safety of global fish stocks. The climate crisis, contamination and pollution impel urgent accounting systems reform.

The special issue critically assesses the state of sustainability accounting and reporting today across a range of sectors. It disseminates research that influences policy and practice for a green economic transition. We particularly welcome international, cross-disciplinary articles on business sustainability that integrate financial with environmental considerations, involving:
• Green investment evaluation
• Measuring climate change mitigation impacts
• Integrated variance analysis for environmental improvement
• Reporting on performance improvement in, for example, energy mix, air pollution, toxic chemicals and hazardous wastes
• Assessing ecosystems impacts (e.g. water pollution, biodiversity)
• Evaluating land use impacts
• Assessing community health-related impacts of firm practices or outputs
• Evaluation of unsustainable production or consumption

Suggest themes:
• Multi-criteria project evaluations
• Sustainable performance management
• Sustainable cost and full-cost accounting
• Triple bottom line (TBL) accounting
• Natural capital inventory accounting
• Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)
• Materiality and precautionary principle
• Risk assessment, green investment due diligence and assessment

In this Special Issue, original research articles and reviews are welcome. Research areas may include (but not limited to) the following:
• International, cross-disciplinary articles on sustainability that integrate financial with environmental considerations
• Integrated performance management and reporting (triple bottom line, balanced scorecard etc.)
• Assessment of firm green credentials and environmental reporting
• Project multi-criteria evaluation
• Sustainability accounting standards and reforms to accounting standards

We look forward to receiving your contributions.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationBusinesses
Publication statusIn preparation - 4 Aug 2022


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