Sustainability accounting and reporting: an ablative reflexive thematic analysis of climate crisis, conservative or radical reform paradigms

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Every year the global financial system sends trillions of dollars to finance environmental destruction, but the climate crisis forces change. Notwithstanding vested interests and the unrecognised paradox of adopting environmental business strategies, the implementation of sustainability accounting and reporting (SAR) is imperative to catalyse economic transition away from fossil-fuel and plastic configurations to more sustainable ones. The research proceeded sequentially. First, it scanned the backdrop to the SAR problem and identified key associated institutions and a corpus of recent literature. An initial review to disentangle its conflicting threads generated three themes of ‘climate crisis’ and ‘conservative’ or more ‘radical’ SAR reform paradigms. Iteratively harnessing this thematic lens, the investigation re-examined the SAR literature corpus. It detected fragmented SAR responses to the climate crisis. Accordingly, the research reformulated its first theme to ‘dystopic climate crisis fragmentation’ but only refined the other two conservative or radical themes to take account of materiality and the split between Anglo-Saxon (IFRS, SSAB) or global and continental institutions (UN, EU, GRI). Conservatives defend incremental standard improvements but retain a single materiality investor-focus. Radicals seek to implement double materiality with a broader spectrum of stakeholders in mind. Both approaches have theoretical as well as pragmatic advantages and disadvantages, so the SAR contention rumbles on. Whilst the standard setting landscape is evolving, division, paradox and contention remain. Given vested interests in the destructive status quo, it would be naïve to expect a harmonious SAR Ithaca to emerge anytime soon. Yet the challenges impel urgent action.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2022


  • climate crisis
  • Sustainability Accounting and Reporting
  • Accounting and Finance
  • Plastic pollution
  • ESG disclosure
  • sustainability assessment
  • sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
  • Public Administration


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