Achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: An enabling role for accounting research

Jan Bebbington, Jeffrey Unerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Purpose: This paper aims to establish and advance the role of academic accounting in the pursuit of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which are regarded as the most salient point of departure for understanding and achieving environmental and human development ambitions up to (and no doubt beyond) the year 2030.

Design/Methodology/Approach: Synthesis of interdisciplinary perspectives on sustainable development and integration of this with the accounting for sustainability literature. In addition, potential accounting research contributions are proposed so as to support the development of new research avenues.

Findings: Existing research in accounting that is relevant to individual Sustainable Development Goals serves as an initial link between them and the accounting discipline. At the same time, the Sustainable Development Goals focus highlights new sites for empirical work (including interdisciplinary investigations) as well as inviting innovation in accounting theoretical frameworks. Moreover, the Goals provide a context for (re)invigorating accounting’s contribution to sustainable development debates.

Originality/value: This is the first paper to explore the roles academic accounting can play in furthering achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals through enhanced understanding, critiquing and advancing of accounting policy, practice and theorizing. It is also the first paper to propose a research agenda in this area.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-24
Number of pages23
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Accounting
  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • social and environmental accounting
  • accounting and sustainable development

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