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Accounting for work conditions from modern slavery to decent work

Katherine Leanne Christ (UniSA Business, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia)
Roger Leonard Burritt (Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)
Stefan Schaltegger (Centre for Sustainability Management, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, Lüneburg, Germany)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 28 July 2020

Issue publication date: 20 October 2020




With the initial focus on the extreme end of the work conditions continuum where, in the last decade, legislation has been introduced to combat illegal and illegitimate practices, this issue's lead paper provides an overview on key topics of extreme work conditions of modern slavery and accounting. The paper introduces the Special Issue on “Accounting for modern slavery, employees and work conditions in business” and its selected papers.


The method adopted is a wide-ranging literature review exploring the continuum of work conditions and their relationship to accounting, especially extreme exploitation of workers through modern slavery.


Employment and workplace conditions and practices in business can be viewed as a continuum ranging from the illegal and illegitimate practices of modern slavery, through unethical and often illegal practices such as wages theft, to decent work. Given this continuum, in this Special Issue avenues are identified for accounting research to provide an account of the effectiveness of actions taken to eliminate modern slavery and overcome grey areas of work conditions.

Practical implications

The paper helps to create an improved understanding of different types of exploitation in work conditions in different industries and the role accounting might play in research and practice.

Social implications

Slavery did not end with abolition in the 19th century. Instead, it changed its forms and continues to harm people in every country in the world especially in certain industries, of which several are discussed and accounting advice proffered. Likewise, as reflected in Special Issue papers, the role of accounting in reducing less extreme forms of poor work conditions is also considered.


The paper provides an overview of different forms and degrees of exploitation in work conditions and identifies the need for and areas of accounting research in this emerging area.



This paper forms part of a special section Accounting for modern slavery, employees and work conditions in business, Guest edited by Katherine Christ, Roger Burritt and Stefan Schaltegger.As anticipated by the co-editors, Distinguished Professor James Guthrie has enthusiastically guided us towards successful completion of this Special Issue and for this he has our grateful thanks. Nevertheless, a simple acknowledgement such as this does no justice to the fact that Professor Guthrie is, and has been throughout, one of a kind. His advice has been based on the highest level of knowledge and professionalism. His speed in response to communications has been faster than a hyperdrive. The co-editors also thank all authors submitting to the Special Issue and all reviewers helping us towards the final selection of papers. The provision of their intellect and time has been essential.


Christ, K.L., Burritt, R.L. and Schaltegger, S. (2020), "Accounting for work conditions from modern slavery to decent work", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 33 No. 7, pp. 1481-1504.



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