The purpose of this paper is to revisit the special issue of Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal which was published in 1991 and which sought to stimulate the “green accounting” debate, to evaluate that issue and, in particular, to examine what we might learn about the development of the social and environmental accounting literature in the last 20 years.
The paper takes the form of a discursive, polemical essay.
The special issue exhibited a wide range of approaches and possibilities; it also exhibited some theoretical naivety and a charming optimism and fetching trust in the power of reasonable argument. Retrospectively, the field has expanded considerably and has made many advances in theoretical and empirical understanding but researchers appear to be less willing to examine the fundamental issues that originally motivated the development of the field.
The implications and limitations stem from the ambitions of this discursive attempt to encourage debate of a more direct and confrontational nature – both within and at the margins of social, environmental and sustainability accounting.
The originality and value of the paper is in its critical engagement with the literature and ideas of social accounting, which is the generic descriptor used in the paper to include “green accounting”. It provides not only an analysis of the achievement of the work to date but some critical pointers to the work that still needs to be done.
Gray, R. and Laughlin, R. (2012), "It was 20 years ago today: Sgt Pepper,
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