Redefining accounting for tomorrow

Webinar: Tuesday 16 April, 2024 10am (London). How do you define accounting? Garry Carnegie has an aspiration for accounting to contribute to the betterment of society and the natural environment.

A colour portrait of a white man in colourful spotted shirt, jacket and bright pale blue glasses. The background is green and with planet earth in the background and the title "redefining accounting for tomorrow"
Can accountants do anything to help save the world?

The accountancy profession is a little unloved and undervalued. Struggling to demonstrate its relevance to society, it reels from one scandal to another and feels misunderstood. It is keen for perceptions to change. Does Garry Carnegie have an answer?

He argues that accounting lacks clear and universally accepted definitions. We’re all familiar with the textbook descriptions that position accounting as a technical practice focused on recording, measuring, and communicating financial information. However, Garry believes these do not adequately capture accounting as a social and moral practice.

If we agree that accounting shapes organisational and social behaviours, it cannot be value-neutral or separated from morality. The ends it serves, therefore, require ethical evaluation. In his 2020 paper [note 1], he proposed this new 2020 definition.

Accounting is a technical, social and moral practice concerned with the sustainable utilisation of resources and proper accountability to stakeholders to enable the flourishing of organisations, people and nature.

He hopes to stimulate discussion on accounting’s purpose and potential to address societal issues like climate change, rather than serve only business interests.

Garry invites you to join the conversation during this online discussion on Tuesday, 16 April, 2024 at 10am (London). He will also explore the implications for accounting education.


Professor Garry Carnegie

Garry Carnegie is an Emeritus Professor of RMIT University and previously served as the head of its School of Accounting until 2017. Before his academic life, Garry worked in IT, professional accounting and financial services. He is an associate editor of Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal and joint editor of the EE Handbook of Accounting, Accountability and Governance.


Resources and further reading

Note 1: Carnegie, G., Parker, L. and Tsahuridu, E. (2021), It’s 2020: What is Accounting Today?. Australian Accounting Review, 31: 65-73. https://doi.org/10.1111/auar.12325

Carnegie, G. and Rose, J. (2024), Embrace broader definitions of accounting to help your students operate sustainably. Times Higher Education. Available at: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/campus/embrace-broader-definitions-accounting-help-your-students-operate-sustainably (Accessed 22 March 2024)


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