Accounting for Business Sustainability: An Overview

24 Pages Posted: 12 May 2011

See all articles by Mona Abou Taleb

Mona Abou Taleb

University of New England

Brian Gibson

University of New England (Australia) - New England Business School

Martin Hovey

UNE Business School

Date Written: May 1, 2011


One of the major challenges faced in the area of accounting for sustainability is the complexity and uncertainty of the subject matter, beginning with the lack of a clearly understood definition of sustainable development (SD) (Herath & Gamini, 2005). In most of the literature, SD is defined as "integrating the economic, social and environmental objectives of society, in order to maximize human well-being in the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs" (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 2001, p.11; Pyle & Forrant, 2002, p.3).

From the perspective of quality of human life, three dimensions could be considered: economic, ecological, and social (human). From this perspective, the economic criteria could focus on the maintenance of a constant stream of income. This aspect of economic or income sustainability is one of the important measures of SD that can be achieved through the implementation of the concept of environmental management accounting (EMA), however, as argued in this paper, it is still ignored.

By taking an overview through the literature of accounting for business sustainability, the outcome of this paper indicates that the majority of literature on the financial or economic aspects of business sustainability focuses on the cost side and how to measure it either in monetary units or in non-monetary units while totally neglecting the revenue side either for business, environment, or society.

Keywords: sustainable development accounting, environmental management accounting, income sustainability measurement, EMA methodology

JEL Classification: M41, M49

Suggested Citation

Abou Taleb, Mona and Gibson, Brian and Hovey, Martin T., Accounting for Business Sustainability: An Overview (May 1, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Mona Abou Taleb (Contact Author)

University of New England ( email )


Brian Gibson

University of New England (Australia) - New England Business School ( email )

Armidale, New South Wales

Martin T. Hovey

UNE Business School ( email )

Armidale, NSW 2351

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