Monday, 8 November 2010

Are accountants the last hope for the world's ecosystems?

You'll be relieved to hear that this eye-catching headline from the Guardian was not accompanied by a photo of a bunch of men in grey suits wearing their underpants over their trousers and striking a superman pose.  Instead, the article draws attention to increasing efforts by the UN to attach an economic value to nature. This is referred to in the article as eco-accounting, but is in fact more to do with environmental economics than accounting. So what? Well the point is, there is a lot more to accounting that economics, finance, or numbers. Putting a figure on the value of nature might provide good copy for newspapers, but (as even the Guardian article itself acknowledges) there are serious dangers inherent in the commodification of nature. Accountants might be able to transform our understanding of SD - but that will require a much more radical re-imagining of accounting than this.


  1. Interesting article and a much needed debate. So how would a re-imagined accountant assess then argue the value of these soon-for-the-bullet seals?

    Fears that seals will be shot dead if new fish farm goes ahead

  2. Thanks Shona - really appreciate the comment! On the subject of fish farming in Scotland, there just so happens to be a paper that explores the potential role of social accounting in that context that you might find interesting. See: Or email me and I'll send you the paper!