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Article
Publication date: 14 June 2013

Helen Tregidga

The paper aims to analyse accounting rationalities and practices which lie behind biodiversity offsetting. The way in which accounting functions as a technology of…

Abstract

Purpose

The paper aims to analyse accounting rationalities and practices which lie behind biodiversity offsetting. The way in which accounting functions as a technology of government through the practice of biodiversity offsetting is to be considered and its effects examined.

Design/methodology/approach

Governmentality is drawn upon to examine ways in which power and authority are exercised in a single case study setting. Data analysed comprise corporate and industry websites and documents, corporate reports, public documentation and interviews. The arena concept is utilised to highlight contestation in the case, and signal concerns regarding the wider impact of the use of particular accounting rationalities and technologies in the context of biodiversity offsetting.

Findings

The paper provides empirical insights into how accounting for biodiversity offsetting rationales and practices constitute an attempt to reproduce power relations in favour of particular parties and foster disciplinary effects. The practice of biodiversity offsetting is problematised through critiquing accounting's governing role in the areas of biodiversity quantification and biodiversity trading. Questions are raised as to whether biodiversity offsetting enabled by accounting techniques is leading to greater accountability and ultimately protection of biodiversity, or whether it represents a mechanism through which particular species and habitat destruction can be justified, or at least hidden in its accounting.

Originality/value

While biodiversity offsetting research is not uncommon within science and law, the analysis of how accounting functions as a technology of government within biodiversity offsetting is believed to be unique.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 26 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 2 September 2019

Jean Raar, Meropy Barut and Mohammad Istiaq Azim

The purpose of this paper is to re-kindle debate about finding a conceptual and pragmatic basis for accounting and accountability researchers and to incorporate…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to re-kindle debate about finding a conceptual and pragmatic basis for accounting and accountability researchers and to incorporate biodiversity management into the internal practices, routines and communication of organizations.

Design/methodology/approach

A qualitative interplay of theories, particularly structuration theory, applied to an interdisciplinary, communitarian and eco-centric perspective will be used to demonstrate the need for change: for researchers and practitioners to interact with other disciplines and adapt their professional, institutional and governance practices to incorporate biodiversity management and reporting within organizational structures.

Findings

Collective community action can be undertaken by aligning physical biodiversity and its setting with the interrelationship between external information structures, accountability and internal information structures, agent behaviour and the reporting of outcomes. This should assist in reducing the loss of species and richness triggered by unsound economic decision-making.

Practical implications

This is perhaps one of the few accounting studies which discuss theoretical frameworks for the integration of accounting/accountability systems and biological diversity information through a conceptual rethinking.

Social implications

This should assist in reducing the loss of species and richness triggered by unsound economic decision-making.

Originality/value

This paper re-opens the debate regarding the need for an alternative conceptual approach through which biodiversity management can be incorporated into the complexities of business interactions, and the social and natural systems, by using management accounting as a primary vehicle. This is perhaps one of the few accounting studies which discuss theoretical frameworks for the integration of accounting/accountability systems and biological diversity information through a conceptual rethinking.

Details

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, vol. 11 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2040-8021

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 1 August 2020

Jill Atkins and Warren Maroun

This paper explores the historical roots of accounting for biodiversity and extinction accounting by analysing the 18th-century Naturalist's Journals of Gilbert White and…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper explores the historical roots of accounting for biodiversity and extinction accounting by analysing the 18th-century Naturalist's Journals of Gilbert White and interpreting them as biodiversity accounts produced by an interested party. The authors aim to contribute to the accounting history literature by extending the form of accounting studied to include nature diaries as well as by exploring historical ecological accounts, as well as contributing to the burgeoning literature on accounting for biodiversity and extinction accounting.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors’ method involves analysing the content of Gilbert White's Naturalist's Journals by producing an 18th-century biodiversity account of species of flora and fauna and then interpretively drawing out themes from the Journals. The authors then provide a Whitean extinction account by comparing current species' status with White's biodiversity account from 250 years ago.

Findings

This paper uses Gilbert White's Naturalist's Journals as a basis for comparing biodiversity and natural capital 250 years ago with current species' status according to extinction threat and conservation status. Further the paper shows how early nature diary recording represents early (and probably the only) forms of accounting for biodiversity and extinction. The authors also highlight themes within White's accounts including social emancipation, problematisation, aesthetic elements and an example of an early audit of biodiversity accounting.

Research limitations/implications

There are limitations to analysing Gilbert White's Naturalist's Journals given that the only available source is an edited version. The authors therefore interpret their data as accounts which are indicative of biodiversity and species abundance rather than an exactly accurate account.

Practical implications

From the authors’ analysis and reflections, the authors suggest that contemporary biodiversity accounting needs to incorporate a combination of narrative, data accounting and pictorial/aesthetic representation if it is to provide a rich and accurate report of biodiversity and nature. The authors also suggest that extinction accounting should draw on historical data in order to demonstrate change in natural capital over time.

Social implications

Social implications include the understanding gleaned from the authors’ analysis of the role of Gilbert White as a nature diarist in society and the contribution made over time by his Journals and other writings to the development of nature accounting and recording, as well as to one’s understanding and knowledge of species of flora and fauna.

Originality/value

To the authors’ knowledge this is the first attempt to analyse and interpret nature diaries as accounts of biodiversity and extinction.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 33 no. 8
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 3 March 2020

Madlen Sobkowiak, Thomas Cuckston and Ian Thomson

This research seeks to explain how a national government becomes capable of constructing an account of its biodiversity performance that is aimed at enabling formulation…

Abstract

Purpose

This research seeks to explain how a national government becomes capable of constructing an account of its biodiversity performance that is aimed at enabling formulation of policy in pursuit of SDG 15: Life on Land.

Design/methodology/approach

The research examines a case study of the construction of the UK government's annual biodiversity report. The case is analysed to explain the process of framing a space in which the SDG-15 challenge of halting biodiversity loss is rendered calculable, such that the government can see and understand its own performance in relation to this challenge.

Findings

The construction of UK government's annual biodiversity report relies upon data collected through non-governmental conservation efforts, statistical expertise of a small project group within the government and a governmental structure that drives ongoing evolution of the indicators as actors strive to make these useful for policy formulation.

Originality/value

The analysis problematises the SDG approach to accounting for sustainable development, whereby performance indicators have been centrally agreed and universally imposed upon all signatory governments. The analysis suggests that capacity-building efforts for national governments may need to be broader than that envisaged by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 33 no. 7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 18 September 2017

Thomas Cuckston

The purpose of this paper is to analyse the role of ecology-centred accounting for biodiversity in efforts to conserve biodiversity.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to analyse the role of ecology-centred accounting for biodiversity in efforts to conserve biodiversity.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper examines a case study of biodiversity conservation efforts to restore a degraded blanket bog habitat. The analysis adopts a social nature perspective, which sees the social and the natural as inseparably intertwined in socio-ecological systems: complexes of relations between (human and non-human) actors, being perpetually produced by fluid interactions. Using a theoretical framework from the geography literature, consisting of four mutually constitutive dimensions of relations – territory, scale, network, and place (TSNP) – the analysis examines various forms of accounting for biodiversity that are centred on this blanket bog.

Findings

The analysis finds that various forms of ecology-centred accounting for biodiversity have rendered this blanket bog visible and comprehensible in multiple ways, so as to contribute towards making this biodiversity conservation thinkable and possible.

Originality/value

This paper brings theorising from geography, concerning the social nature perspective and the TSNP framework, into the study of accounting for biodiversity. This has enabled a novel analysis that reveals the productive force of ecology-centred accounting for biodiversity, and the role of such accounting in organising the world so as to produce socio-ecological systems that aid biodiversity conservation.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 30 no. 7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 14 June 2013

Michael John Jones and Jill Frances Solomon

This paper seeks to problematise “accounting for biodiversity” and to provide a framework for analysing and understanding the role of accounting in preserving and…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper seeks to problematise “accounting for biodiversity” and to provide a framework for analysing and understanding the role of accounting in preserving and enhancing biodiversity on Planet Earth. The paper aims to raise awareness of the urgent need to address biodiversity loss and extinction and the need for corporations to discharge accountability for their part in the current biodiversity crisis by accounting for their biodiversity‐related strategies and policies. Such accounting is, it is believed, emancipatory and leads to engendering change in corporate behaviour and attitudes.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors reviewed the literature relating to biodiversity across a wide array of disciplines including anthropology, biodiversity, ecology, finance, philosophy, and of course, accounting, in order to build an image of the current state of biodiversity and the role which accounting can and “should” play in the future of biodiversity.

Findings

It is found that the problems underlying accounting for biodiversity fall into four broad categories: philosophical and scientific problems, accountability problems, technical accounting problems, and problems of accounting practice.

Practical implications

Through establishing a framework problematising biodiversity, a roadmap is laid out for researchers and practitioners to navigate a route for future research and policymaking in biodiversity accounting. It is concluded that an interdisciplinary approach to accounting for biodiversity is crucial to ensuring effective action on biodiversity and for accounting for biodiversity to achieve its emancipatory potential.

Originality/value

Although there is a wealth of sustainability reporting research, there is hardly any work exploring the role of accounting in preserving and enhancing biodiversity. There is no research exploring the current state of accounting for biodiversity. This paper summarises the current state of biodiversity using an interdisciplinary approach and introduces a series of papers devoted to the role of accounting in biodiversity accepted for this AAAJ special issue. The paper also provides a framework identifying the diverse problems associated with accounting for biodiversity.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 26 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 6 February 2017

Md Moazzem Hossain

This paper aims to respond to recent calls by Jones (2014) and Jones and Solomon (Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 2013) for more studies on biodiversity

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to respond to recent calls by Jones (2014) and Jones and Solomon (Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 2013) for more studies on biodiversity accounting and reporting. In particular, this paper explores biodiversity reporting of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA), an Australian public sector enterprise.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper uses content analysis of MDBA’s published annual reports over the period of 15 years (1998-2012). Archival data (from different government departments) are also used to prepare natural inventory model.

Findings

The paper finds that although specific species, such as flora and fauna, and habitats-related disclosures have increased over the time, such information still allows only a partial construction of an inventory of natural assets, using Jones’ (1996, 2003) model. However, unlike prior studies that find lack of data availability to be the main impediment for operationalising biodiversity accounting, the abundance of biodiversity data in Australia makes it comparatively easier to produce such a statement.

Research limitations/implications

Informed by the environmental stewardship framework, the results of this paper suggest that the disclosures made by MDBA are constrained potentially due to its use of traditional accounting mechanisms of reporting that only allow tradable items to be reported to stakeholders. An alternative reporting format would be more relevant to stakeholder groups who are more interested in information regarding quality and availability of water, and loss of biodiversity in the basin area rather than the financial performance of the MDBA.

Originality/value

Although there are a growing number of studies exploring biodiversity reporting in Australia, this paper is one of the earlier attempts to operationalise biodiversity (particularly habitats, flora and fauna) within the context of an Australian public sector enterprise.

Details

Pacific Accounting Review, vol. 29 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0114-0582

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Article
Publication date: 14 June 2013

Thomas Cuckston

This paper seeks to examine how the biodiversity comprising a tropical forest ecosystem is being protected as a result of having its conservation brought into financial…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper seeks to examine how the biodiversity comprising a tropical forest ecosystem is being protected as a result of having its conservation brought into financial accounting calculations by constructing a greenhouse gas emissions offset product to sell on the voluntary over‐the‐counter carbon markets.

Design/methodology/approach

The research examines a single embedded case study of a biodiversity conservation project in Kenya. The resulting discussion builds upon the existing accounting and organisation studies literature regarding the construction of markets.

Findings

Whilst the case examined does successfully bring tropical forest biodiversity conservation into the financial accounting calculations of the sellers and buyers of the offset product, via processes of objectification and singularisation, there are considerable accounting obstacles to constructing a calculative mechanism capable of achieving this on a global scale to facilitate financing of the conservation of all the world's remaining tropical forest biodiversity.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to the debate on accounting for biodiversity by examining market construction as a theoretical framework for turning the loss/conservation of biodiversity from an externality into an entity that is taken into account in organisations' calculations of profit and loss.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 26 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 8 August 2019

Thomas Cuckston

The purpose of this paper is to explain how proponents of biodiversity offsetting have sought to produce an ecologically defensible mechanism for reconciling economic…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explain how proponents of biodiversity offsetting have sought to produce an ecologically defensible mechanism for reconciling economic development and biodiversity conservation.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper analyses a case study biodiversity offsetting mechanism in New South Wales, Australia. Michel Callon’s framing and overflowing metaphor is used to explain how accounting devices are brought into the mechanism, to (re)frame a space of calculability and address anxieties expressed by conservationists about calculations of net loss/gain of biodiversity.

Findings

The analysis shows that the offsetting mechanism embeds a form of accounting for biodiversity that runs counter to the prevailing dominant anthropocentric approach. Rather than accounting for the biodiversity of a site in terms of the economic benefits it provides to humans, the mechanism accounts for biodiversity in terms of its ecological value. This analysis, therefore, reveals a form of accounting for biodiversity that uses numbers to provide valuations of biodiversity, but these numbers are ecological numbers, not economic numbers. So this is a calculative, and also ecocentric, approach to accounting for, and valuing, biodiversity.

Originality/value

This paper contributes to the extant literature on accounting for biodiversity by revealing a novel conceptualisation of the reconciliation of economic development and biodiversity conservation, producing an ecologically defensible form of sustainable development. The paper also makes a methodological contribution by showing how Callon’s framing and overflowing metaphor can be used to enable the kind of interdisciplinary engagement needed for researchers to address sustainable development challenges.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 32 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 19 March 2018

Thomas Cuckston

The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species in achieving biodiversity

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species in achieving biodiversity conservation and preventing the extinction of species. The Red List is a calculative device that classifies species in terms of their exposure to the risk of extinction.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper draws on theorising in the Social Studies of Finance literature to analyse the Red List in terms of how it frames a space of calculability for species extinction. The analysis then traces the ways that this framing has overflowed, creating conditions for calculative innovations, such that assemblages of humans and calculative devices (i.e. agencements) are constructed with collective capabilities to act to conserve biodiversity and prevent species extinctions.

Findings

This paper has traced three ways that the Red List frame has overflowed, leading to calculative innovations and the construction of new agencements. The overflow of relations between the quality of “extinction risk”, produced by the Red List, and other qualities, such as location, has created opportunities for conservationists to develop agencements capable of formulating conservation strategies. The overflow of relations between the identity of the “threatened species”, produced by the Red List, and other features of evaluated species, has created opportunities for conservationists to develop agencements capable of impelling participation in conservation efforts. The overflow of ecological relations between species, discarded by the Red List’s hierarchical metrology of extinction risk classifications, has created opportunities for conservationists to develop agencements capable of confronting society with the reality of an extinction crisis.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to the accounting for biodiversity literature by addressing its fundamental challenge: explaining how accounting can create conditions within society in which biodiversity conservation is made possible.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 31 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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