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In an earlier Knowledge Gateway article, entitled “Redefining accounting for tomorrow” (6 April 2021), it is argued “how we define accounting today and what defines accounting tomorrow are fundamental to the purpose, value and identity of the accountancy profession” (Carnegie et al., 2021, np)[1]. This was based on the following proposed new multidimensional definition of accounting first published in the Australian Accounting Review (AAR): [2]

“Accounting is a technical, social and moral practice concerned with the sustainable utilisation of resources and proper accountability to stakeholders to enable the flourishing of organisations, people and nature” (Carnegie et al. 2021, p. 69).

Subsequent Gateway contributions applying this proposed definition, have examined the roles and importance of accounting education and accounting research respectively in shaping a better world (Carnegie et al., 2022a, 2022b)[3].

In what follows, the redefinition of accounting for tomorrow is explored by means of broad scope engagement (BSE) by the international accountancy profession and individual professional accountants. BSE is proposed by means of adopting interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches  “to enable the flourishing of organisations, people and nature”. BSE is vital for accounting and practising and academic accountants to actively contribute to shaping a better world.

This requires in the first instance the  profession, and its membership globally, to directly focus on its social and moral content and obligations. It calls for the profession to better engage with all its stakeholders, including understanding and connecting with interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches, so that accountancy does not remain perceived as a technical practice alone nor as an isolated discipline in aspiration, approach or in action. In substance, the latter stereotype may not serve our profession’s future well.

Instead, it is preferably important for accounting students and graduates of the future the future leaders of our profession and organizations to enthusiastically envision their careers with wide purpose and potential attainment, one that attracts these individuals through making a difference in the world. In marked contrast, the accounting “field still suffers from a stigma that it is uncool, with tedious work and daunting hours” (WSJ, 28 December 2022)[4].

Therefore, accounting can, and is indeed recommended to, respond to the views of new generations of would-be accounting professionals who may aspire, as members of the profession, to be actively engaged and impactful in shaping a better, fairer, more liveable and sustainable world.  Moreover, accounting recruiters have been luring experienced accountants into new alternative careers. Indeed, “they are often moving into jobs in finance and technology” (WSJ, 28 December 2022).

The organised accountancy profession, however, needs to elevate its response.  It needs to be proactive in its  active engagement with other key disciplines in advancing society, conserving the natural environment and protecting the Planet in in the public interest. There is no “Planet B”.

The often-cited catch cry of accounting as the “language of business” does not have the same resonance as previously, especially in dealing with copious challenging issues troubling the world today and arising in future.[5] Moreover, it is too narrow for the early 2020s. In short, profound challenging issues in the world are not solely concerned with “business” nor will these be adequately addressed and rectified to the extent possible solely by business or business people. 

According to Marcou, Partridge and Jensen (2022), “PAOs [Professional Accounting Organizations] need to step down and get closer to the stakeholder group that we as a profession are trying to embrace—we must make ourselves visible and accessible to students”. These authors advocate avoiding a situation where PAOs find themselves “at a disadvantage in the war for talent”[6].

Importantly, it is incumbent on the profession to attract the best and brightest talent by means of  stimulating widespread and active BSE, on an unprecedented scale, by means of interdisciplinary approaches to better understanding the dynamics and complexity of the world and multidisciplinary approaches to dealing with challenging issues in organisations, society, nature and for the protection and longevity of the planet. Rather, this needs a concentration on the public interest as well as the planet’s interest.

Accordingly, the following issues that we envision, and indeed now propose, are in urgent need of attention:

  1. We urge the international organized accountancy profession to make interdisciplinary accounting research more central to accounting development, particularly to its overdue redevelopment and proposed aspiration “to enable the flourishing of organisations, people and nature”.
  2. Accounting educators can be more impactful by aspiring to shape a better world, and enhance their value by teaching students to understand, portray and practice accounting as a multidimensional technical, social and moral practice. To be more specific, “accounting is not a mere neutral, benign, technical practice” (Carnegie et al., 2021a, p. 72) and accounting students need know this from the first day of their studies.
  3. Building interdisciplinary accounting, auditing and accountability research (IAAAR), accounting education will benefit from being strategically oriented towards this proposed definition of accounting. This definition offers the potential to foster multidisciplinary approaches by bringing a diversity of voices and broad views “to the table” to collectively overcome or at least to moderate challenging issues facing humans and non-humans alike.                                                               
  4. IAAAR both informs teaching and learning and contributes to understanding the nature, roles, uses and impacts of accounting in the world. Thus, the profession can enhance the capacity of professional accountants to undertake accounting as fit-for-purpose in the specific organisational and social contexts in which it operates.
  5. Accounting educators and researchers, as well as professional accountants and PAOs, can further extend and advance the discipline by apply themselves to do more under BSE to collaborate and optimize their full mutual potential within the discipline. This will also visibly position the profession as more broadly connected, versatile and nurturing in the world.

To sum up, the global profession of today is invited to reposition itself with a clear view to accounting becoming prominent “to enable the flourishing of organisations, people and nature” and enhance the profession’s attractiveness for future generations of accountants.  The profession is actively encouraged to move with confidence into its future with a multidimensional conception of accounting as technical, social and moral practice for shaping a better world.  Defining accounting in these terms is a means to a dynamic and meaningful future, one which is enabled, and indeed not disabled, under BSE by inspirationally leveraging interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches without undue delay.


[1] See,

[2] Initially published online in AAR, 22 November 2020, see:

[4] This viewport is attributed to Keith Wolf, managing director at the recruiting firm Murray Resources, Houston.

Garry Carnegie

Emeritus Professor, Department of Accounting, RMIT University

Garry Carnegie is an Emeritus Professor of RMIT University having served as Head, School of Accounting and Professor of Accounting at RMIT from 2010 to 2017. Prior to joining academe in 1985, Professor Carnegie gained experience in the IT industry, professional accounting services and in financial services. Prior to joining RMIT, he held full-time professorial posts at Deakin University, Melbourne University Private/The University of Melbourne, and at the University of Ballarat (now Federation University Australia). He was the Editor/Joint Editor of Accounting History for a continuous period of 25 years and is an Associate Editor of Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal. He is Joint Editor of the EE Handbook of Accounting, Accountability and Governance.

Lee Parker

Lee Parker is Research Professor of Accounting, Glasgow University, Scotland. Globally published, Lee is joint founding editor of Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal and member of over 20 journal editorial boards. He has been President: Academy of Accounting Historians (USA), American Accounting Association Public Interest section, Vice-President (International) American Accounting Association, President CPA Australia (SA Division), Deputy Chair Australian Institute of Management (SA), member of the Australian Accounting Hall of Fame and the Australian Centre For Social and Environmental Accounting Research Hall of Fame.