Transforming our accounting systems to reorganize with what really matters

Saturday 20 June 2020

What do pangolins, Asian ecosystems, caregivers, cashiers, delivery people, etc. have in common? They are myriads of beings and entities that our economic and management systems have sidelined, and that the current crisis is bringing to the forefront, revealing in a very harsh way their importance and our interdependence with them. And the first management system unaware of their existence or importance is accounting. (The Conversation, June 18, 2020)

Alexandre Rambaud, in charge of the "Organizational Accounting" axis within the Ecological Accounting Chair, and Clément Feger, in charge of the "Ecosystem-Centric" axis, describe accounting systems as a means of questioning our relationship to others, to our environment, to ourselves, and as tools for representing the world, in all its complexity. Finally and above all, it is a tool for dialogue and steering for all actors in society, a means of identifying and considering "what we care about" and deserves to be preserved, and of organising individual and collective responsibilities around these preservation issues.

The so-called "classic" model of financial accounting recognises capital as a liability to be preserved ("cose vive" (living things)), quite distinct from the "assets" ("cose morte" (dead things)) that represent the use that is made of it. Thus all capital is a stock of diverse and varied things, recognized as "capital", made available and then degraded in the context of the activities of a company, an institution, a community, and whose restoration must be ensured in the long term.

Social and ecological accounting, defended and developed in CARE (Comprehensive Accounting in Respect of Ecology) and in the accounting of "ecosystem-centric management" (interdependent with each other), is in line with this vision by directly and distinctly integrating human and environmental issues into the balance sheets and profit and loss accounts of organizations. These multi-capital systems, extensive and integrative, thus recognize the existence of capital human and natural entities, which are sources of concern for organizations and for society, and whose preservation must be ensured in the long term. These "capital debts" are assessed at the cost of maintaining them after degradation.

> Read the full publication in The Conversation

> This reflection is part of the research carried out in particular within the Collège des Bernardins research program “Entreprises humaines: écologie et philosophies comptables” which began this year, for a period of 2 years.