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Shifting the focus of sustainability accounting from impacts to risks and dependencies: researching the transformative potential of TCFD reporting

Brendan O'Dwyer (Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK) (Amsterdam Business School, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Jeffrey Unerman (Department of Accounting and Finance, Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 10 June 2020

Issue publication date: 10 July 2020




This paper problematizes TCFD (Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures) reporting in a way that demonstrates areas where academic research can contribute towards realizing the transformative potential of this unique form of sustainability accounting in its early stages of development.


The paper proposes a number of research agendas for impactful interdisciplinary research into new forms of corporate reporting of sustainability risks, opportunities and dependencies.


There are several major challenges that both reporting corporations and investors need to address in realizing the potential of TCFD style risks, opportunities and dependencies reporting. Key among these is developing new practices of climate-related scenario analysis and reporting.

Practical implications

There is potential for many different academic research studies to provide solid evidence in helping improve the practical impact of TCFD style sustainability reporting. These impacts may assist in moving corporate policies and actions towards zero carbon.


This is the first agenda-setting paper that addresses the need for, and opportunities of, academic research into TCFD reporting and its potential to transform corporate accounting and reporting of sustainability.



We are very grateful to James Guthrie and Lee Parker for their constructive encouragement for us to develop this paper and to the Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal reviewers for their insightful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. We would also like to thank Tim O'Dwyer for his research assistance. All errors and omissions are a result of our own unassisted work.


O'Dwyer, B. and Unerman, J. (2020), "Shifting the focus of sustainability accounting from impacts to risks and dependencies: researching the transformative potential of TCFD reporting", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 33 No. 5, pp. 1113-1141.



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