Advancing research into accounting and the UN sustainable development goals

Jan Bebbington, Jeffrey Unerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
282 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose – This paper introduces a special section devoted to accounting scholarship that addresses the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and has three purposes. First, we explore the puzzle of a relative absence of accounting related scholarship that address the SDGs. Second, the papers within the special section are introduced and located within streams of existing research and practice. Third, the paper then suggests framings, approaches and/or conditions under which we might see more accounting scholarship in support of advancing the SDGs.

Design/methodology/approach – A structured review of publication patterns in accounting journals over the last five years is undertaken to explore the nature and extent of SDGrelated accounting research. These patterns and foundational accounting literature are used to shape a series of observations and propositions underlying the line of argument developed in the paper.

Findings – Despite the SDGs’ prominence in the policy world, and the widespread embrace of their utility for shaping understandings of organizational responsibilities, accounting scholars have been slow to engage in SDG motivated research. This gap creates two issues. First, accounting scholarship is less available to the web of knowledge that is being developed about how to enact the ambitions of the SDGs. Second, accounting scholarship is not developing in a way that incorporates SDG related challenges facing organizations. This paper suggests ways in which accounting scholarship can overcome these limitations.

Originality/value – Accounting research on the SDGs is in an early stage of development, despite almost five years having elapsed since their formal adoption. This paper highlights avenues for accounting scholars’ engagement with the SDG agenda.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1657-1670
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number7
Early online date3 Aug 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Aug 2020


  • Accounting scholarship
  • Responsibility
  • SDG accounting
  • Sustainable Development Goals


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