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Accounting for biodiversity in Australia

Hossain, M.M. (2017) Accounting for biodiversity in Australia. Pacific Accounting Review, 29 (1). pp. 2-33.

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This paper aims to respond to recent calls by Jones (2014) and Jones and Solomon (Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 2013) for more studies on biodiversity accounting and reporting. In particular, this paper explores biodiversity reporting of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA), an Australian public sector enterprise.

The paper uses content analysis of MDBA’s published annual reports over the period of 15 years (1998-2012). Archival data (from different government departments) are also used to prepare natural inventory model.

The paper finds that although specific species, such as flora and fauna, and habitats-related disclosures have increased over the time, such information still allows only a partial construction of an inventory of natural assets, using Jones’ (1996, 2003) model. However, unlike prior studies that find lack of data availability to be the main impediment for operationalising biodiversity accounting, the abundance of biodiversity data in Australia makes it comparatively easier to produce such a statement.

Research limitations/implications
Informed by the environmental stewardship framework, the results of this paper suggest that the disclosures made by MDBA are constrained potentially due to its use of traditional accounting mechanisms of reporting that only allow tradable items to be reported to stakeholders. An alternative reporting format would be more relevant to stakeholder groups who are more interested in information regarding quality and availability of water, and loss of biodiversity in the basin area rather than the financial performance of the MDBA.

Although there are a growing number of studies exploring biodiversity reporting in Australia, this paper is one of the earlier attempts to operationalise biodiversity (particularly habitats, flora and fauna) within the context of an Australian public sector enterprise.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School Of Business and Governance
Publisher: Emerald
Copyright: © Emerald Publishing Limited 2017
United Nations SDGs: Goal 15: Life on Land
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