Title: An exploration of critical scientific realism: focused on changes in accounting for sustainable development

Authors: Frank Birkin

Addresses: School of Management, University of Sheffield, 9 Mappin Street, Sheffield S1 4DT, UK

Abstract: Aspects of accounting have changed to incorporate social and environmental factors alongside those economic. The degree to which these changes have been implemented in individual companies and sectors of the economy varies significantly and is not well understood. One frequently used understanding makes use of the concept of |sustainable development| which is in itself contentious and not well understood. This paper uses an ontological argument to explain these changes. It then identifies a foundation for accounting for sustainable development in terms of critical scientific realism which is appropriate to the changed ontology. The paper proceeds by: 1) analysing the scientific basis for the proposed ontological change; 2) reviewing the history of a passive nature ontology on accounting; 3) a broad comparison of the different ontologies; 4) a discussion of the implications for accounting, especially accounting for sustainable development, of the change to an active nature ontology are considered.

Keywords: social factors; environmental accounting; sustainable development accounting; critical theory; critical scientific realism; critical accounting; sustainability; ontology.

DOI: 10.1504/IJCA.2010.031386

International Journal of Critical Accounting, 2010 Vol.2 No.2, pp.146 - 169

Published online: 02 Feb 2010 *

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