Ian Thomson

Research interests

My main reseach activities is two themes relating to Accounting for sustainability research. The first is concerned with problematising existing accounting practices in terms of their effectiveness in promoting sustainable transformation or in perpetuating organisational decision making with unsustainable practices. The second theme is the design of new sustainability-accounting hybrid practices that are aligned with sustainable development concepts.


Ongoing Research Projects:

  • Use of counter accounting in conflict arenas, such as Oil pollution and human rights abuse  in the Niger Delta.
  • Role of social auditing practices in international aid programmes, such as Home Grown School Feeding Programmes.
  • Accounting as a mediating practice between social problems associated with disability, delivery of care provision in a time of austerity.
  • Third Sector Accountability as a means to reduce inequality, such as in the delivery of educational services in rural Pakistan.
  • Carbon Accounting’s role in public spending decision making and accountability.
  • Exploring economic democracy, accountability, and governing effectiveness of hybrid organisations, such as mutual ownership of football clubs.
  • Exploring sustainability accounting as an anticipatory work practice in different regimes of governing.


Ian Thomson is a Professor of Accounting & Sustainability at Birmingham Business School and his research is concerned with how accounting and other forms of evidence impacts in organizational decision making and operations which have a social and/or environmental impact. This research has included interdisciplinary studies on implementation of cleaner technology, establishing industrial ecologies, effective stakeholder engagement, risk governance in water and salmon farming, sustainable development indicators, government policy making and external accounting.

He has been called as an expert witness to the Scottish Parliament’s Finance and Infrastructure & Capital Investment Committees, Special Policy Advisor to the Scottish Parliament’s Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee, Budget Advisor to the Scottish Parliaments’ Cities and Infrastructure Committee and was a member of the expert stakeholder panel for the Sustainable Development Commission (Scotland).

In 2012 he was elected as convener of the Centre for Social and Environmental Accounting Research. Until recently Ian Thomson was Professor of Accountancy at Heriot-Watt University and prior to this position was Professor of Accounting at Strathclyde Business School. He is a Chartered Management Accountant and before becoming an academic held senior accounting positions in NHS Scotland and BBC Scotland.