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Counting to zero: accounting for a green building

Susse Georg (Department of Planning, Aalborg University Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark)
Lise Justesen (Department of Organization, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 19 June 2017




The purpose of this paper is to examine how a particular form of environmental accounting, energy accounting, is negotiated in practice and how energy accounting may act as a productive organizing device in organizational contexts. Energy accounting is considered as performative in organizational practices rather than as a representation of resource use.


This paper is based on a longitudinal case study of the design phase in a construction project. Data collection entailed observational and document studies as well as interviews with those involved in the design processes. This paper draws on actor-network theory, notably the notions of framing and overflowing, in analyzing the role of energy accounting in design processes and in affecting organizational practice.


The paper provides several insights regarding energy accounting in the making, energy accounting’s performative role in enacting possible futures, the narrative importance of numbers, and the entangled nature of designing, accounting and organizing practices. The findings demonstrate the strong links between accounting and organizing.


This paper adds to the extant literature on environmental accounting by directing attention to how such accounting practices contribute to forming rather than just informing management decisions. By focusing on how the calculative practices of making such accounts mediate ideas and help assemble new entities, this paper provides useful insights into the performative role of environmental accounting.



The authors would like to thank Ebba Sjögren for suggesting the title “Counting to zero”. Also, thanks to Cheryl Lehman, Peter Kjær, Cecilie Glerup, Kjell Tryggestad and Jan Mouritsen for their constructive comments on earlier drafts of this paper.


Georg, S. and Justesen, L. (2017), "Counting to zero: accounting for a green building", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 30 No. 5, pp. 1065-1081.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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