Accounting and Accountability for Rewilding, De-extinction and Biodiversity Protection



There is a burgeoning academic literature in the areas of accounting for biodiversity and extinction accounting (for example, Jones and Solomon, 2013; Atkins and Maroun, 2018; Corvino et al., 2021; Roberts et al., 2021; Roberts et al., 2022). This evolving literature approaches accounting and accountability from a multitude of perspectives. Some seek to assess the quantity and quality of accounting for biodiversity and extinction accounting across all sectors and in geographic regions across the globe. Research also addresses how these reporting forms are emancipatory or captured by impression management and greenwashing (Maroun and Atkins, 2018; Zhao and Atkins, 2021). Concerning the latter, the empirics suggest that efforts to account for, and report on, species are limited among the business community in both developed (for example, Adler et al., 2018; Hassan et al., 2020) and developing economies (for example, Usher and Maroun, 2018; Zhang and Noronha, 2023; Sun and Lange, 2023).

Concerning greenwashing, more than a decade ago, Jones and Solomon (2013) discussed the problems associated with accounting for biodiversity being anthropocentric in nature and potentially characterised by impression management. More recently, Carnegie et al. (2021a, 2021b) proposed redefining accounting as a multidimensional technical, social and moral practice "to enable the flourishing of organisations, people and nature" (2021a, p.69) as a global and proactive approach for shaping a better, more sustainable world. Boiral (2016) and Boiral and Heras-Saizarbitoria (2017) presented evidence of impression management activities in accounting for biodiversity. Studies also seek to identify various initiatives and strategies organisations implement to enhance biodiversity and save species. These include, for example, biodiversity offsets, the creation of biodiversity corridors, remote sensing used in biodiversity audits, and efforts to increase endangered species populations. To date, however, there has been no attempt to explore accounting and accountability for rewilding and de-extinction within the context of accounting for biodiversity, preventing species extinctions and enhancing ecosystems and habitats. This may be, at least in part, due to rewilding and de-extinction being relatively new scientific projects. Further, exploring new developments in science and conservation requires significant investment in interdisciplinary research approaches, which involves significant time and research resources. A recent study of the scientific and practical processes of rewilding asserts that rewilding "…does not have a single simple definition. Instead, it has proved useful as a way of describing an approach to conservation that seeks to maintain or even increase biodiversity and reduce or reverse past and present human impacts by restoring more functional ecosystems" (Lorimer et al., p. 54). Furthermore, rewilding has been, "…proposed as a new potential panacea for restoring not only biodiversity but also wilderness" (Nogués-Bravo et al., 2016, p. 87).

The urgent need for "rewilding" aligns broadly with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially the emphasis placed on conserving ocean and land-based ecosystems to conserve critical ecological processes and contribute to improved living standards for the world's growing population. Rather than being seen as "anti-globalism" or premised on a claimed effort to reverse substantially or even completely the effects of industrialisation, rewilding may be seen as a "visionary new agenda for conservation" which balances environmental goals with pragmatism (Jepson and Blythe, 2020, p.45). One element of rewilding is the de-extinction of species which can assist in rewilding landscapes through their reintroduction, as illustrated by the de-extinction and rewilding of aurochs across Europe (Jepson and Blythe, 2020; Atkins et al., 2023).

Significant financial and human investment are required for scientific de-extinctions. Similarly, rewilding projects involve sourcing substantial financing from various sources. Financing de-extinction and rewilding involves an extensive network of stakeholders, including government, NGOs, charities, universities, philanthropic donations, and increasingly the creation of novel, innovative financial mechanisms. Indeed, new financial markets are developing quickly to provide the sources of finance required to rewild massive tracts of land, as well as small-scale ecosystem regeneration and rewilding. New developments in the financial markets point to the emergence of 'extinction finance' defined as "…the integration of species protection, extinction prevention and biodiversity enhancement into financial market mechanisms" (Atkins and Macpherson, 2022, p.22). There has been some attempt to catalogue the sources of finance behind rewilding projects outside the accounting and finance literature (Pereira and Navarro, 2015), but the financing requires more critique and analysis of the intended and necessary effectiveness. New forms of accounting and accountability will become necessary to complement and accompany these developments in extinction finance.

The published Biological Diversity Protocol (2021) calls for companies to transform their reporting and activities to preserve and enhance biodiversity. The forthcoming Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) framework and the new European Union (EU) sustainability reporting framework anticipates reporting on nature-positive organisational strategies and outcomes. Such new frameworks act as a driving force behind commitments to invest in rewilding by companies, financial institutions, and other organisations. Developments in legal frameworks such as the EU Nature Restoration Law, passed by the European Parliament in July 2023 (Niranjan, 2023), are also intended to provide an impetus for companies and financial institutions to make firm and timely commitments to rewilding efforts as well as to a plethora of biodiversity-enhancing and species-saving strategies.

Biodiversity and rewilding cannot be extracted from the political environment in which stakeholder groups with ostensibly diametrically opposite agendas compete for the attention of legislators. This was manifested in the narrow vote by which the EU Nature Restoration Law passed into the EU legal, environmental framework. Stakeholder attitudes towards rewilding are far from homogenous; failure to reconcile disparate perspectives may result in legal frameworks in a constant state of flux as governments embracing the so-called green agenda are replaced by those advocating a laissez-faire approach. The latter, to date, prioritise economic and industrial development, even if at the cost of environmental degradation and species extinction. In these settings, Carroll's pyramid (Carroll, 1991, 1999) and the contrary literature which invert it are primed for review to take account of biodiversity's relationship to its principal building blocks (Brown and Fraser, 2006; Ruka and Rashidirad, 2019). Countries where species and natural habitats are under severe stress, especially where economic development has become totemic, seemingly regardless of the adverse consequences for the natural environment, provide a useful reference point for exploring and implementing "win-win" scenarios for all humans and non-humans alike.

List of topic areas

This AAAJ special issue represents a platform for further research into accounting and accountability for international rewilding efforts and de-extinction projects. We welcome submissions of full papers that research the following areas:

  • The involvement of various stakeholders, including governments, corporates, NGOs, conservation organisations, financial institutions, and banks in rewilding programmes around the world, and their accounting and accountability for these programmes
  • The funding sources (current or proposed) for these rewilding and de-extinction programmes, including the development of new financial mechanisms such as nature impact tokens and nature/species bonds, and accountability for their development, as well as accounting and accountability for their implementation and impacts
  • Accountability for de-extinction of species programmes such as the auroch and other species which are being reintroduced into areas for rewilding - funding sources and accounting for/accountability for these programmes - forms of ”de-extinction accounting”
  • The development and application of accounting approaches for rewilding, de-extinction and biodiversity protection as a combined technical, social and moral practice
  • Accounting and accountability for initiatives arising from the finance and banking sectors for halting deforestation
  • The introduction of the TNFD and the accountability requirements demanded by this framework for financial institutions and companies
  • The ongoing development and evolution of nature and biodiversity accounting in specific countries or regions and globally
  • The development of biodiversity and nature-focused reporting and disclosure frameworks such as the Biological Diversity Protocol (2021) and their effectiveness in discharging accountability for nature, species and biodiversity
  • The involvement and engagement of first nations/indigenous peoples in preventing destruction of biodiversity by corporate activities such as mining and continued fossil fuel extraction and their efforts to restore nature and habitats
  • The challenges faced by emerging market countries in addressing biodiversity loss and deforestation and renewal initiatives
  • The evolution of legal and ethical frameworks which support and enable rewilding and biodiversity protection, such as the EU Nature Restoration Law
  • Accounting for the preservation of species and their environments by companies, public sector and third sector organisations
  • Philosophical and ethical debates around rewilding and de-extinction and how these relate to mechanisms of accounting and accountability.

We also welcome research applying a wide range of methodological approaches, including qualitative, quantitative, interpretive, and theoretical. We emphasise that given the explorative nature of research in this area, the above list is merely indicative rather than exhaustive and that submission on other pertinent topics relating to accounting for rewilding, de-extinction and biodiversity protection would be welcome.


The submission deadline for this special issue is 01 December 2024.

Manuscripts are to be submitted using the AAAJ online submission management system ScholarOne. If you would like to discuss the AAAJ special issue and your potential contribution, please contact the guest editors by email: Jill Atkins ([email protected]), Garry Carnegie ([email protected]), Warren Maroun ([email protected]), Simon Norton ([email protected]). All submissions will be reviewed in accordance with the AAAJ journal's regular procedures and protocols.

Submit via ScholarOne

Author Guidelines


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Atkins, J.F. and Macpherson, M. (Eds.) (2022), Extinction Governance, Finance and Accounting: Implementing a Species Protection Action Plan for the Financial Markets, Routledge, London and New York.

Atkins, J.F. and Maroun, W. (2018) "Integrated extinction accounting and accountability: building an ark", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 31, No. 3, pp. 1-41.

Atkins, J.F., Atkins, B.C., Maroun, W., Norton, S.D. and Zhao, L. (2023) "Extinction accounting for de-extinction and rewilding: the case of Auroch 2.0", paper presented at the Jean Monet Sustainable Finance Workshop, Milano-Bicocca University, Italy, July.

Biological Diversity Protocol (BD Protocol) (2021) Endangered Wildlife Trust - Biodiversity Disclosure Project. Authors: Houdet, J., Addison, P., Deshmukh, P., Ding, H., Finisdore, J., Grigg, A., O'Gorman, M., Quétier, F., Atkins, J., Sparg, S. and Vincentz, R, see:

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Boiral, O. and Heras-Saizarbitoria, I. (2017) “Managing biodiversity through stakeholder involvement: why, who, and for what initiatives?”, Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 140, pp. 403-421.

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Carnegie, G., Parker, L. and Tsahuridu, E. (2021b) "Redefining accounting for tomorrow", Knowledge Gateway, International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), see:… (published 6 April 2021)

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Jepson, P. and Blythe, C. (2020) Rewilding: The Radical New Science of Ecological Recovery, Icon Books Limited, London, UK.

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Pereira, H.M. and Navarro, L. (Eds). (2015), Rewilding European Landscapes, Springer, New York, USA. Roberts, L., Hassan, A., Elamer, A. and Nandy, M. (2021) "Biodiversity and extinction accounting for sustainable development: a systematic literature review and future research directions," Business Strategy and the Environment, Vol. 30, No. 1, pp. 705-720. Roberts, L., Nandy, M., Hassan, A., Lodh, S. and Elamer, A., (2022) "Corporate accountability towards species extinction protection: insights from ecologically forward-thinking companies", Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 178, pp. 571-595.

Ruka, A. and Rashidirad, M. (2019), "Exploring the environmental strategy of big energy companies to drive sustainability", Strategic Change, Vol. 28, No. 6, pp. 435-443.

Sun, Y. and Lange, Y. (2023) “Implementing biodiversity reporting: insights from the case of the largest dairy company in China”, Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp. 75-100.

Usher, K. and Maroun, W. (2018) “A review of biodiversity reporting by the South African seafood industry”, South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences, Vol. 21, No.1, pp. 1-12.

Zhang, R. and Noronha, C. (2023), "Assessing the nexus between cross-border infrastructure projects and extinction accounting—from the Belt and Road Initiative Perspective", Social and Environmental Accountability Journal, Vol. 43, No. 1, pp. 30-55.

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