Rethinking the accounting stance on sustainable development



This paper investigates the sustainability initiatives of the accounting profession in support of sustainable development. This is important because the post-Rio sustainability agenda involves the role of accounting in directing corporate behaviour; however, a review of critical literature indicates censure of accounting as being apathetic to society and environment. To see whether this criticism still holds, using a desktop research approach, the paper proceeds to investigate the sustainability initiatives contained in the web portals of selected accounting bodies. Findings indicate appreciable levels of initiatives to sustainable development; however, lack of standards, regulations and uniform accounting schemes still poses a challenge such that contemporary sustainability accounting appears more like a weak approximation of the triple bottom line. It concludes that accounting requires a more pragmatic response to sustainable development, as this would facilitate government and institutional policies towards sustainability, and recommends that vital aspects of response should include carbon accounting standards, regulated sustainability accounting and the formation of ‘engineering accounting’ in order to address the challenges of climate change and carbon trading. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.