Achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: an enabling role of accounting research

Jan Bebbington, Jeffrey Unerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

536 Citations (Scopus)
37 Downloads (Pure)



The purpose of this paper is to establish and advance the role of academic accounting in the pursuit of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are regarded as the most salient point of departure for understanding and achieving environmental and human development ambitions up to (and no doubt beyond) the year 2030.


This paper provides a synthesis of interdisciplinary perspectives on sustainable development and integration of this with the accounting for sustainability literature. In addition, potential accounting research contributions are proposed so as to support the development of new research avenues.


Existing research in accounting that is relevant to individual SDGs serves as an initial link between them and the accounting discipline. At the same time, the SDGs focus highlights new sites for empirical work (including interdisciplinary investigations) as well as inviting innovation in accounting theoretical frameworks. Moreover, the SDGs provide a context for (re)invigorating accounting’s contribution to sustainable development debates.


This is the first paper to explore the roles academic accounting can play in furthering achievement of the SDGs through enhanced understanding, critiquing and advancing of accounting policy, practice and theorizing. It is also the first paper to propose a research agenda in this area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-24
Number of pages26
JournalAccounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal
Issue number1
Early online date6 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2018


  • Accounting
  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • Social and environmental accounting
  • Accounting and sustainable development


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