Personal Reflections on a Tale of Two Books: Social and Environmental Accounting Research in the Past, Present and Future

By Mathews, R. | Australasian Accounting Business & Finance Journal, February 2008 | Go to article overview

Personal Reflections on a Tale of Two Books: Social and Environmental Accounting Research in the Past, Present and Future


Mathews, R., Australasian Accounting Business & Finance Journal


Abstract

This paper was requested by the guest editors of the Australasian Accounting, Business and Finance Journal (AABFJ) following the Sydney CSEAR conference. One topic suggested to me was to write a comment on recent developments leveraging on GG 2007 or that part that has not been published previously. I am pleased to attempt this but wish also to make reference to another book published at the same time (Unerman, Bebbington and O'Dwyer (UBOD 2007), because I believe that the different perspectives presented are informative for all scholars in the field of SEAR which is now often referred to as SA. The remainder of this paper other than the introduction and conclusion will consist of firstly a review of GG 2007, secondly a review of UBOD 2007, and thirdly a number of observations based on these contrasting works.

BACKGROUND/PREFACE

I was greatly honoured and not a little surprised to be asked to participate in this venture. Of course, I was relieved that the editors (Gray and Guthrie, 2007) (hereinafter GG 2007) took the European view of the Festschrift as a celebration of an event (my retirement), rather than the Australasian view (after the demise of the person concerned).

Now that the work has been published (GG 2007), I have had the opportunity to study the contributions of my contemporaries as well as seeing some of my own work in print once again. Together the contributions mark both past and present rather than the future of Social and Environmental Accounting Research (SEAR), which is increasingly being called Sustainability Accounting (SA).

INTRODUCTION

This paper was requested by the guest editors of the Australasian Accounting, Business and Finance Journal (AABFJ) following the Sydney CSEAR conference. One topic suggested to me was to write a comment on recent developments leveraging on GG 2007 or that part that has not been published previously. I am pleased to attempt this but wish also to make reference to another book published at the same time (Unerman, Bebbington and O'Dwyer (UBOD 2007), because I believe that the different perspectives presented are informative for all scholars in the field of SEAR which is now often referred to as SA.

The remainder of this paper other than the introduction and conclusion will consist of firstly a review of GG 2007, secondly a review of UBOD 2007, and thirdly a number of observations based on these contrasting works.

A REVIEW OF GG 2007

GG 2007 is made up of two parts. The first part consists of an editorial and ten contributions by a total of thirteen academics currently working in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The second part consists of reprints of nine papers by Mathews, three of which are joint publications with those represented in the collection of editorial and ten contributions. There is also a detailed bibliography of works by Mathews ranging from 1984 to 2004.

The overall characteristic of the nine papers is that with the exception of the papers by Milne and Reynolds, they are concerned with Social and Environmental Accounting with no reference to sustainable development, sustainability accounting, eco-justice or any of the language more recently introduced to the field. A second characteristic is that whereas the acceptance of a critical theorist stance is perceived as very important to sustainability accounting (Dillard, UBOD 2007, p.37), the social and environmental accounting writers have no one philosophical base.

The topics covered the following areas: Deegan (Chapter 2; Social Accounting Research: An Australasian Perspective) attempts to answer a series of research questions about the extent to which Australasian based academics have been involved in social accounting research, the level of concentration, the focus of their work, and the journals employed as outlets for this research. The results were encouraging. Using a sample of nine internationally rated journals, it was found that within social accounting Australasian academics are 'punching above their weight'. …

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