Seeking transparency makes one blind: How to rethink disclosure, account for nature, and make corporations sustainable

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Purpose. Financial and nonfinancial disclosures are still anchored to conventional notions of transparency, whereby corporations “push” information out to various stakeholders. Such information is now “pulled” from various sources and addresses aspects of corporate behavior that go well beyond those envisioned by the disclosure framework. This shift makes notions of values, measurement, and accountability more fragmented, complex, and difficult. The paper aims to bring the accounting scholarly debate back to what and how transparency can be achieved especially in relation to issues of social inequality and sustainability
Design/methodology/approach. After an analysis of the limitations of current approaches to disclosure, the paper proposes a shift towards normative policies that profit of years of critique of positivism.
Findings. Drawing on the notion of value-added, the paper ends with a new income statement design, labelled as Value Added Statement for Nature, which recognises Nature as a further stakeholder and forces human stakeholders to give voice, or at least acknowledge the lack of voice, for non-human actors.
Originality. I propose a shift in the perspective, practice, and institutional arrangements in which disclosure occurs. Measurement and transparency need to happen in communication exercises, which do not presuppose what needs to be made transparent once and for good but define procedures on how to make fragmented, complex, multiple, and volatile notions of value transparent. Income statements and accounting more in general is to be reconceived as a platform where stakeholders will have to continuously negotiate what counts as the common good in the interest of all, including Nature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-566
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number2
Early online date16 Sep 2021
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2022


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