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Exploring the historical roots of environmental and ecological accounting from the dawn of human consciousness

Atkins, Jill Frances ORCID:, Doni, Federica, McBride, Karen and Napier, Christopher 2023. Exploring the historical roots of environmental and ecological accounting from the dawn of human consciousness. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal 36 (6) , pp. 1473-1502. 10.1108/AAAJ-03-2023-6354

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Purpose This paper seeks to broaden the agenda for environmental and ecological accounting research across several dimensions, extending the form of accounting in this field by encouraging research into its historical roots and developing a definition of accounting that can address the severe environmental and ecological challenges of the 21st century. Design/methodology/approach The authors explored environmental and ecological accounts from the dawn of human consciousness across a wide variety of media and in a broad range of forms. This theoretical approach reacts to the cold capitalist commodification of nature inherent in much environmental accounting practice, which documents, values and records usage of natural capital with little attempt to address depletion and loss. Findings By analysing the earliest ecological and environmental “accounts” recorded by humans at the dawn of human consciousness, and considering a wide array of subsequent accounts, the authors demonstrate that rather than being a secondary, relatively recent development emerging from financial accounting and reporting, environmental and ecological accounting predated financial accounting by tens of thousands of years. This research also provides a wealth of perspectives on diversity, not only in forms of account but also in the diversity of accountants, as well as the broadness of the stakeholders to whom and to which the accounts are rendered. Research limitations/implications The paper can be placed at the intersection of accounting history, the alternative, interdisciplinary and critical accounts literature, and environmental and ecological accounting research. Practical implications Practically, the authors can draw ideas and inspiration from the historical forms and content of ecological and environmental account that can inform new forms of and approaches to accounting. Social implications There are social implications including the diversity of accounts and accountants derived from studying historical ecological and environmental accounts from the dawn of human consciousness especially in the broadening out of the authors' understanding of the origins and cultural roots of accounting. Originality/value This study concludes with a new definition of accounting, fit for purpose in the 21st century, that integrates ecological, environmental concerns and is emancipatory, aiming to restore nature, revive biodiversity, conserve species and enhance ecosystems.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Publisher: Emerald
ISSN: 0951-3574
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 2 June 2023
Date of Acceptance: 26 May 2023
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2023 16:28

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