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Introduction to the SAGE major works in social and environmental accounting


There is a surprisingly large volume of social and environmental accounting literature now. Our initial supposition had been that a preferred 60+ articles would emerge clearly. This was not so. We all produced our first choices from our own sources and then carefully reviewed additional sources such as the SEAJ Reviews section on the CSEAR website. This produced a series of listings and, when merged, produced our first pass of selected pieces. After a lot of reflection, this really did look rather predictable and just a little bit boring.

So, in order to augment this we undertook two additional steps. First, we wrote to those with active involvement in CSEAR as well as writing to a number of individuals who have chosen never to get involved with The Centre. A special mention should go to Markus Milne who not only emphasised our need to become less predictable and less CSEAR orientated but he also sent us the results of a detailed citation survey that he is involved in completing. Then we started to carefully review the range of `less obvious’ journals – whose influence is fairly clear in the final list.

This overall process produced a list of about 300 hundred or so papers and chapters which we then set about re-considering with some care.

Then came the hard part, we started to cull papers from those journals which would fall foul of the Sage constraint. This was the most difficult stage and many favourites fell by the wayside here. In many cases, a decisions had to be made about two papers which (say) covered similar ground or (say) made a similar point in favour of papers which were relatively novel. In addition, we took a very formal step of seeking to exclude every Bebbington/Gray paper that we possibly could so that each of our own pieces had to `fight its way back in’.

This produced a second major list of papers. This list was then very carefully scrutinised for balance and, more especially, for what was missing. It became apparent (as authors such as Milne and Adams have noted) that the empirical work was easily dominated by corporate reporting. The collection needed to reflect this but also to note that that is only one (albeit crucial) part of what social and environmental (and sustainability) accounting might be. Areas that were re-considered included: older papers; SRI; social audit; education; human resource accounting; employees/employment/unions; sustainability; critical and post modern analyses; public sector; lesser developed countries; and, particularly, work that might not have been noticed within the CSEAR network).

From here about 120 papers needed detailed re-reading to produce the penultimate list which was then organised around the four themes for the volumes, and then bracketed into the sub-themes within each collection. Once a last juggling had taken place and `spare’ papers identified, the list that you see below was produced. It took something like 4-person months of work to produce this final list. Not simple or easy at all!