Accounting for and in the Anthropocene

Call for papers for: Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

The submission window for this special issue will open on 1 June 2021 for submission of full papers until 30 October 2021.

Guest editors

Nicolas Antheaume, Nantes University, France, [email protected]
Stefan Schaltegger, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany, 
[email protected]
Souad Taibi, Audencia Business School Nantes, France, [email protected]
Richard Jabot, Audencia Business School Nantes, France, [email protected]

For the first time in the history of humanity our activities impact the planet in such a way that its ability to sustain human life is no longer certain (Franck 2018; Olsson et al. 2017; Fischer et al. 2007). Not only have we entered a period in which the negative consequences of human activities compromise social justice, ecological integrity and economic stability (Bebbington et al. 2019), we have also entered in a new geological era, the Anthropocene (Crutzen and Stoermer 2000). The concept highlights that humanity has become a force that influences the planet already beyond various planetary boundaries, mainly biodiversity loss, climate change, land-system change and an imbalance of the phosphorous and nitrogen cycles (Rockström and al. 2009, Steffen and al. 2015).

As a difference to the past, the step into the Anthropocene has increased our responsibility and forces governments and companies to manage impacts at an unprecedented scale as nature cannot sufficiently buffer or compensate the negative sustainability impacts of humans anymore.

In spite of previous attempts to address sustainability issues, we face a widening sustainability gap between our collective trajectory as humans, which takes us away from sustainability and the desired goal of a sustainable world (Fischer et al. 2007). So far, all our efforts to create a sustainable future have been insufficient (Bjørn et al. 2016) as proven by the accelerating degradation of global biophysical indicators (e.g., WWF 2018; SRI 2020).

The trajectory and the entry into the Anthropocene epoch is the result of history-driven economic and political decisions (Bonneuil and Fressoz 2016). Accounting scholarship is well placed to both better understand reasons and drivers of this development (Bebbington et al. 2019) as well as to support change towards improvements (Burritt and Schaltegger 2010). While social, environmental and sustainability accounting have so far focused on analysing drivers and processes of deterioration and developing methods aiming to reduce material and energy flows and costs (e.g. Kokubu and Kitada 2015), the link to planetary boundaries and the global vision of sustainable development has not been in the focus (Gray 2010). Exceptions include Gibassier and Alcouffe 2018; Schaltegger 2018; Taïbi et al. 2020).

Given the gaps between what we know, based on science (for example IPCC 2018; IPBES 2019), what is being done and what should be done, how can accounting research and practice help to fill the gaps?

Addressing this question can follow two key trajectories: mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation assumes that we can fix the problems and make the planet livable, using an accounting framework with (r)evolutionary effects creating an economic and societal turnaround. This requires that we explore avenues linking accounting with frameworks such as multi-capital accounting (Richard and Rambaud, 2015) and doughnut economics (Raworth, 2017) to not overshoot planetary boundaries and evade shortfalls with regard to social foundations. Solutions to radically reform the way companies are managed need to be envisaged and fostered.

Adaptation as the second trajectory focuses on preparing ourselves for planetary disasters. Indeed, so far, no economy and society has been able to satisfy the basic needs of its population without an unsustainable use of natural resources (O’Neill et al. 2018).  There are places in the world today, such as failed states, war zones and zones that have experienced disasters which may indicate how the world could look like in the future. This raises the question of what role accounting can play to support best possible adaption to radically deteriorated ecological, social and economic environments.

Suggested topics:
This special issue aims at collecting innovative, path-breaking papers with rigorous arguments, analyses and concepts on what role accounting can play to support mitigation and adaptation in the Anthropocene. Possible topics include but are not limited to:

  • How can accounting support awareness, unveil denial, reduce uncertainty, encourage adequate action, inform decision-makers and guide implementation of mitigation and adaptation solutions in the Anthropocene?
  • How can accounting support businesses and municipalities to keep functioning in a devastated word of ecological disaster?
  • How can theoretical perspectives from other disciplines, both social sciences and environmental sciences, be a source of inspiration to develop an accounting framework in and for the Anthropocene? Or how can they contribute to exposing the limitations of existing accounting frameworks
  • How can accounting help to place and maintain mankind in the “safe and just operating space”?
  • How can accounting encourage and support (fast) transformative approaches within the remaining timeframe?

We welcome all kinds of high-quality accounting papers (of a max. 12 000 words length) applying either qualitative or quantitative methods, with different theoretical foundations addressing either mitigation or adaptation in the Anthropocene.

Open for submissions: 1 June 2021
Submission deadline: 30 October 2021

Submissions for the special issue will be made through SAMPJ’s ScholarOne platform:

To view the author guidelines for this journal, please visit the journal's page.

This special issue is introduced at the CSEAR/EMAN 2021 online conference and is open to all submissions addressing the key topic of the special issue. We will invite presenters to CSEAR/EMAN 2021 conference to express their interest for a submission to the SAMPJ special issue, and to attend a workshop where the special issue will be presented. The call for papers of CSEAR/EMAN 2021 can be accessed here.



Bebbington, J., Österblom, H., Crona, B., Jouffray, J., Larrinaga, C., Russell, S., & Scholtens, B. (2019). Accounting and accountability in the Anthropocene. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, ahead-of-print.

Bjørn, A., Bey, N., Georg, S., Røpke, I., & Hauschild, M. Z. (2017). Is Earth recognized as a finite system in corporate responsibility reporting? Journal of Cleaner Production, 163,106–117.

Bonneuil C., & Fressoz J.-B. (2016). L’évènement Anthropocène: la Terre, l’histoire et nous. Paris: Seuil.

Burritt, R. L., & Schaltegger, S. (2010). Sustainability accounting and reporting: fad or trend? Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 23(7), 829-846.

Crutzen, P. J., & Stoermer, E. F. (2000). The “Anthropocene”. IGBP Newsletter 41. S. 17-18.

Fischer, J., Manning, A. D., Steffen, W., Rose, D. B., Daniell, K., Felton, A., ... & MacDonald, B. (2007). Mind the sustainability gap. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 22(12), 621-624

Franck, A. (2018). Light of stars. Alien worlds and the fate of the Earth. New York: Norton & company.

Gibassier, D., & Alcouffe, S. (2018). Environmental management accounting: the missing link to sustainability? Social and Environmental Accountability Journal, 38(1), 1-18.

Gray, R. (2010). Is accounting for sustainability actually accounting for sustainability… and how would we know? An exploration of narratives of organisations and the planet. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 35(1), 47-62.

IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) (2018). Global warming of 1.5 °c. IPCC special report. Viewed 28 November 2020.,

IPBES (Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystems) (2019). Media Release: Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’. Viewed 28 November 2020,

Kokubu, K., & Kitada, H. (2015). Material flow cost accounting and existing management perspectives. Journal of Cleaner Production, 108, 1279-1288.

Olsson, P., Moore, M., Westley, F. & McCarthy, D. (2017). The concept of the Anthropocene as a game-changer: a new context for social innovation and transformations to sustainability. Ecology and Society, 22(2), 31.

O’Neill, D. W., Fanning, A. L., Lamb, W. F., & Steinberger, J. K. (2018). A good life for all within planetary boundaries. Nature Sustainability 1(2), 88–95.

Raworth, K. (2017). Doughnut economics: seven ways to think like a 21st-century economist. Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Richard, J., & Rambaud, A. (2015). The “Triple Depreciation Line” instead of the “Triple Bottom Line”: Towards a genuine integrated reporting. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 33, 92-116.

Rockström, J., Steffen, W., Noone, K. et al. (2009). A safe operating space for humanity. Nature 461, 472–475

Schaltegger, S. (2018). Linking environmental management accounting: a reflection on (missing) links to sustainability and planetary boundaries. Social and Environmental Accountability Journal, 38(1), 19-29.

SRI (Stockholm Resilience Centre) (2020). The nine planetary boundaries. Viewed 14 October 2020.

Steffen, W., Richardson, K., Rockström, J., Cornell, S. E., Fetzer, I., Bennett, E. M., Biggs, R., Carpenter, S. R., Vries, W. de, Wit, C. A. de, Folke, C., Gerten, D., Heinke, J., Mace, G. M., Persson, L. M., Ramanathan, V., Reyers, B., & Sörlin, S. (2015). Sustainability. Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet. Science, 347(6223).

Taïbi, S., Antheaume, N., & Gibassier, D. (2020). Accounting for strong sustainability: an intervention-research based approach, Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, 11(7), 1213-1243.

WWF (World Wildlife Fund) (2018). Living planet report 2018: aiming higher. Grooten, M. and Almond, R.E.A. (Eds). WWF, Gland, Switzerland.