Accounts of nature and the nature of accounts: critical reflections on environmental accounting and propositions for ecologically informed accounting

Shona Louise Russell, Markus Milne, Colin Dey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)



The purpose of this paper is to review and synthesise academic research in environmental accounting and demonstrate its shortcomings. It provokes scholars to rethink their conceptions of “accounts” and “nature”, and alongside others in this AAAJ special issue, provides the basis for an agenda for theoretical and empirical research that begins to “ecologise” accounting.


Utilising a wide range of thought from accounting, geography, sociology, political ecology, nature writing and social activism, the paper provides an analysis and critique of key themes associated with 40 years research in environmental accounting. It then considers how that broad base of work in social science, particularly pragmatic sociology (e.g. Latour, Boltanksi and Thévenot), could contribute to reimagining an ecologically informed accounting.


Environmental accounting research overwhelmingly focuses on economic entities and their inputs and outputs. Conceptually, an “information throughput” model dominates. There is little or no environment in environmental accounting, and certainly no ecology. The papers in this AAAJ special issue contribute to these themes, and alongside social science literature, indicate significant opportunities for research to begin to overcome them.

Research limitations/implications

This paper outlines and encourages the advancement of ecological accounts and accountabilities drawing on conceptual resources across social sciences, arts and humanities. It identifies areas for research to develop its interdisciplinary potential to contribute to ecological sustainability and social justice.


How to “ecologise” accounting and conceptualise human and non-human entities has received little attention in accounting research. This paper and AAAJ special issue provides empirical, practical and theoretical material to advance further work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1426-1458
JournalAccounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal
Issue number7
Early online date4 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 18 Sept 2017


  • Ecological accounting
  • Accounting
  • Accountability
  • Sustainability
  • Nature
  • Pluralism


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