Sustainable Development: A Review of the International Development, Business and Accounting Literature
Univ of Aberdeen Acct, Finance & Mgmt Working Paper No. 00-17
46 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2001
Date Written: December 22, 2000
This paper has been written in response to the perception that "sustainable development" and its derivatives are being used in, amongst others, the accounting literature in a way which equates sustainable development with "good environmental management". Further, the paper assumes that such usage of sustainable development arises, at least in part, from a lack of awareness of the origins of the concept. Thus the paper seeks to sketch the origins of debates about sustainable development and to briefly outline how the concept has been used in the business literature and in the accounting literature. As this task progresses it becomes evident that the meaning of sustainable development is not at all fixed. Rather, sustainable development has been constructed in various discourses to mean a variety of, often mutually exclusive, outcomes. The main argument of this paper, therefore, is that one should be careful about using sustainable development to mean "good environmental management". Rather, from a review of the literature it becomes clear that sustainable development is a concept which is designed to address the question: what kind of economic system would lead to everyone's needs being met in an ecologically sustainable and socially just manner? While "good environmental management" is therefore part of the sustainable development agenda it is not a central part of the debate.
Keywords: environmental accounting, sustainability, development
JEL Classification: M41, O10, Q20
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation