The paper "Insight of Social and Environmental Accounting in Australia" is a wonderful example of a research proposal on finance and accounting. Various companies have increasingly been reporting publicly on various aspects of their environmental and social performance in the recent past (See 2007). However, most of these reports have been providing fairly rudimentary and general qualitative, environmental, and social performance information. By 2007, Accounting and Finance was the only Social Science Citation Index accounting journal in the academic writing of Australia and New Zealand. However, its contribution to stand-alone environmental accounting research output between 2000 and 2005 was only a single journal article (Boyd & Banzhaf, 2007).
This raises eyebrows as to whether accounting professionals understand their role in social and environmental accounting (Brown & Fraser, 2006). It has been said that accounting practitioners and accounting educators can play a vital role in the development of social and environmental accounting and reporting. The accounting profession has been linked to social and environmental accounting by underlying theories and concepts of social and environmental accounting (SEA) (See 2007). Thus, accounting professionals must understand their roles in social and environmental accounting development.
This research paper aims to elucidate the accounting practitioners’ perceptions and insight on social and environmental accounting in Australia. The study will be guided by the legitimacy theory. Literature review Historically, social and environmental accounting studies began in the 1970s although the 1960s played a crucial role in its development. At this time capitalism faced a lot of criticism and as such, it wanted to legitimize its existence (Yongvanich & Guthrie, 2006). The idea of incorporating the social aspects of business became accepted.
The SEA has since then undergone much development through corporate social responsibility. It is now widely accepted that social matters are vital for the economic prosperity of a firm (See 2007). As a result, many firms have in recent past been providing on various aspects of their environmental and social performance in their annual reports (Owen, 2008). The 1980s decade saw many firms disclose the social, ethical, and environmental aspects of their firms. However, disclosures in the 1990s were mainly about the environment than social matters (Aronsson, 2010).
At the turn of the century, the importance of environmental matters saw many companies disclose their environmental responsibilities in separate reports from the traditional way where the SEA received little if not attention in the annual financial reports. This could have been influenced by increased legislation which required firms to be environmentally accountable in all their dealings (Crowther, 2000). This could also have been influenced by the realization that the environment was essential for the sustainability of the business. The interest in social and environmental matters was accompanied by increased academic writing and publications (Owen, 2008).
It has been argued that social and environmental accounting and reporting are essential as tools for analyzing the sustainability of firms and as such, they have been important issues in academic literature. The relationship between the SEA and the accounting profession has been cited in the underlying concept and theories of SEA (See 2007). This is evidenced in the acceptance by SEA advocates of the conventional accountability model to incorporate an extended array of stakeholders. In the understanding of conventional accountability among accountants, accountability is the basic assumption in traditional accounting that shareholders raise accountability mechanisms for the purpose of protecting their interests (Owen, 2008).
This is supported by the argument that account emphasizes financial information that is solely intended for the shareholders and creditors (Boyd & Banzhaf, 2007). However, SEA goes beyond the precincts of serving the investors and considers the whole possible stakeholders that are likely to be impacted by the business such as the society and the environment. Thus, SEA addresses the inherent limitation in conventional accounting and cites the responsibility of the accountant to the environment (Owen, 2008).
Thus, SEA draws from professional attributes such as rendering of public service and being concerned with social issues.
Aronsson, T. (2010). Handbook of environmental accounting. London: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Ball, A., & Craig, R. (2010). Using neo-institutionalism to advance social and environmental accounting. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 21(4), 283-293
Boyd, J., & Banzhaf, S. (2007). What are ecosystem services? The need for standardized environmental accounting units. Ecological Economics, 63(2-3), 616-626
Brown, J., & Fraser, M. (2006). Approaches and perspectives in social and environmental accounting: an overview of the conceptual landscape. Business Strategy and the Environment, 15(2), 103-117
Crowther, D. (2000). Social and environmental accounting. London: Financial Times/Prentice Hall
Idowu, S., & Filho, W. (2009). Professionals ́ Perspectives of Corporate Social Responsibility. London: Springer.
Owen, D. (2008). Chronicles of wasted time? A personal reflection on the current state of, and future prospects for, social and environmental accounting research. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 21(2), 240 – 267
See C.D. (2007). Social accounting at Traidcraft plc: A struggle for the meaning of fair trade', Accounting. Auditing & Accountability Journal, 20(3), 423 - 445.
Spence, C., Husillos, J., & Correa-Ruiz, C. (2010). Cargo cult science and the death of politics: A critical review of social and environmental accounting research. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 21(1), 76-89
Yongvanich, K., & Guthrie, J. (2006). An extended performance reporting framework for social and environmental accounting. Business Strategy and the Environment, 15(5), 309-321