Sustainability at stake during COVID-19: exploring the role of accounting in addressing environmental crises

Charles H. Cho*, Juliette Senn, Madlen Sobkowiak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, we reflect and provide insights on the environmental implications of post-COVID-19 economic recoveries. More specifically, we highlight the connection(s) between the environment and the COVID-19 crisis, in particular the intertwined links between Mother Nature and the virus. We then raise some concerns about the ‘illusionary’ positive and negative effects of the crisis on the environment before evoking some past lessons about crisis management and recovery. We contend that the current accounting and accountability mechanisms employed in economic stimulus programs, as well as traditional environmental accounting approaches, are inadequate and limiting to achieve long-term sustainability change. The paper concludes by offering accounting practitioners and researchers some possibilities to take a step forward and develop new understandings of social and environmental value consistent with ecological principles and sustainable development—and hope that these reflections will contribute to a broader debate on the role of accounting for sustainable development in the Anthropocene.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102327
Number of pages8
JournalCritical Perspectives on Accounting
Early online date26 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Editor Jane Andrew for giving us the opportunity to contribute this article to the special issue “The Environment in Crisis” for Critical Perspectives on Accounting and two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions. Charles Cho also thanks Annabelle Chan for her research assistance and acknowledges the support provided by the Erivan K. Haub Chair in Business & Sustainability at the Schulich School of Business. We would also like to pay a tribute to the memory of Professor Rob Gray, Professor Keith Maunders and Professor Jeffrey Unerman, who very sadly passed away recently. They were the pillars of social and environmental accounting research and paved the way for us. We dedicate this article to them.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Accountability
  • COVID-19
  • Environmental crisis
  • Social and environmental accounting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Information Systems and Management


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