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Accounting for Biodiversity

Low Carbon Intellectual Renewal: An introduction

As a social and environmental accountant I have become increasingly aware of the threat that climate change poses to the wellbeing of many of our human family who occupy this planet. While climate change is not the only sustainable development ‘game in town’ it is a significant agenda around which governments, markets and civil society are coalescing. Further, if we don’t get our response to climate change right, many other social and environmental problems will be accelerated (including biodiversity loss and poverty to name but two). I firmly believe that intellectual communities are part of a broader group of practitioners and thinkers who will be (at least in part) responsible for helping to shape a future where dangerous climate change is avoided. Gathering together to exchange ideas, to challenge each other and to grow our knowledge base is part and parcel of the response to this issue.

Having said that, it is likely that the future will be very different from the past and that, as a community, some of our behaviours will be challenged. Flying around the world to conferences is one aspect of our current lives that may disappear in the near, medium or distant future (the time frame depends on your reading of the runes). The need for intellectual renewal, however, will not go away.

Given the above, I gathered a team of folk together to experiment with providing a keynote speech at the 2010 APIRA conference in Sydney in 2010. Rather than attend the conference in person I sent a film that dealt with a specific issue of concern for social and environmental accountants – that of accounting for biodiversity.  The abstract of the film provides an outline of the rationale for this choice and also a brief introduction to the film. 

I would also like to emphasise that I am not in the business of dictating or judging whether or not anyone should travel to Sydney or indeed any other location for conferences. The choice to travel/not travel belongs to individuals and you are all perfectly capable of making that choice for yourself. There remain very good reasons to have face to face interactions with people and conferences provide one opportunity to do so.

Jan Bebbington, University of St. Andrews

The Film

APIRA 2010 - 6th Asia Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting Conference from WeeFlee Productions on Vimeo.

For reasons of quality control and practicality we have not produced a DVD of the film.  Rather, it will be lodged here and can be shown via the internet connection

Project team

Film contributors: Professor Jan Bebbington, Dr Emilia Ferraro, Professor Anne Magurran, Ms Rhona McLaren, & Dr Rehema White (all of the University of St Andrews)  

Slide show contributors: Dr Bob Frame (Manaaki Whenua/Landcare Research (New Zealand) Ltd) & Mr Ian Thomson (University of Strathclyde)  

Film produced by: Scott Tait (Wee Flee Productions etc)

Presentation abstract

accounting for biodiversity abstract (PDF, 12 KB)

Teaching resources

teaching resources (PDF, 111 KB)

Biodiversity surveys at the University of St Andrews


This questionnaire questionnaire (PDF, 81 KB)was used at the APIRA conference to gather feedback from participants about what they thought of the film as well as views on a variety of related matters.  We hope to provide a summary of the results of the survey in due course.  Should you wish to provide us with your own feedback on the film please feel free to email Jan (  This film is very much an experiment and we are keen to refine our approach and share our experiences with as many people as possible.

apira logo ACCA logo weeflee logo

Related work

Here is another example of a slide show with a voice over that engages an audience to reflect - in this case, on the role of community woodlands.  Asking students to develop something of this nature in order to communicate key ideas may be a fun and innovative way of engaging them in their learning (see also teaching resources).

Jump to other Research Projects at SASI

More than GDP: Measuring What Matters

Designing the transition to sustainability: resourcing community resilience

Accounting for Biodiversity: Low carbon intellectual renewal

Craft and Sustainability

Designing Environments for life

Saving Energy at the Workplace

Sustainable Development Commission database