Management And Accounting Web

Goldstein, S. 2015. Six capitals, or can accountants save the planet? Rethinking capitalism for the twenty-first century. The CPA Journal (October): 15-16.

Note by James R. Martin, Ph.D., CMA
Professor Emeritus, University of South Florida

Environmental Costs Main Page | Social Accounting Main Page

This is a note on Goldstein's review of the 2015 book by Jane Gleeson-White1, Six capitals, or can accountants save the planet? Rethinking capitalism for the twenty-first century.

The theme of Gleeson-White's book is that accountants need to take action to save the planet with an emphasis on integrated reporting. Integrated reporting includes non-financial information and information related to externalities.

According to Gleeson-White there are six types of capital. These include:

financial,

natural (environment),

manufactured,

human (skills, productivity, and health),

social/relationship (shared norms and values), and

intellectual (intellectual property).

The idea is that we tend to ignore what we don't measure. The book builds on the work of Robert Eccles2 who advocated including an environmental assessment in financial reports quantifying externalities such as depletion of natural resources and harm to workers, as well as positive acts like training employees, and supporting communities.

The double entry accounting system needs to be upgraded to a comprehensive accounting system that measures the effect of corporation behavior on the six capitals. Gleeson-White charges accountants with the responsibility to lead in making sustainability and integrated reporting an essential part of the business process.

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1 Her previous book, Gleeson-White, J. 2013. Double Entry: How the Merchants of Venice Created Modern Finance. W. W. Norton & Company was reviewed by Goldstein in the April 2013 issue of The CPA Journal. See her web site for more information at http://janegleesonwhite.com/

2 Eccles, R. and M. P. Krzus. 2010. One Report: Integrated Reporting for a Sustainable Strategy. Wiley. Also see Eccles, R. G., M. P. Krzus and S. Ribot. 2014. The Integrated Reporting Movement: Meaning, Momentum, Motives, and Materiality. Wiley.

Related summaries:

English, D. M. and D. K. Schooley. 2014. The evolution of sustainability reporting. The CPA Journal (March): 26-35. (Summary).

Esquire. 2015. America: These are your choices. Esquire (December/January): 149-153, 160-161, 164, 168. (Summary - This is a summary of ten questions related to the most critical choices for America based on information from the Brookings Institution).

Estes, R. 1992. Social accounting past and future: Should the profession lead, follow - or just get out of the way? Advances In Management Accounting (1): 97-108. (Summary).

Handy, C. 2002. What's a business for? Harvard Business Review (December): 49-55. (Summary).

Johnson, H. T. 2006. Sustainability and "Lean Operations". Cost Management (March/April): 40-45. (Summary).

Johnson, H. T. 2012. A global system growing itself to death - and what we can do about it. The Systems Thinker (May): 2-6. (Summary).

Jones, A. III. and G. A. Jonas. 2011. Corporate social responsibility reporting: The growing need for input from the accounting profession. The CPA Journal (February): 65-71. (Summary).

Porter, M. E. and M. R. Kramer. 2006. Strategy and society: The link between competitive advantage and corporate social responsibility. Harvard Business Review (December): 78-92. (Summary).

Schooley, D. K. and D. M. English. 2015. SASB: A pathway to sustainability reporting in the United States. The CPA Journal (April): 22-27. (Summary).