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The accounting push and the policy pull: balancing environment and economic decisions


  • Vardon, Michael
  • Burnett, Peter
  • Dovers, Stephen


The use of information in environmental and economic policy has been a theme for over 100years but standards for integrating environmental and economic information were not adopted until 2012, through the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA). For 20years the technical ‘push’ to develop accounts proceeded largely independently of the ‘pull’ from the intended or likely end-users of accounts. Consequently governments have little knowledge of the accounting or how it might be used. We examine why public policy imperatives have not yet pulled environmental accounting into the mainstream and explain how accounting can help reshape government decision-making. As part of this a model showing the place of accounts in the information system and the policy cycle is presented along with a research agenda and principles for the decision-centred design of accounts. We conclude that a phased implementation of the accounts as well as additional research into their applications will be needed to build practical understanding and political acceptance of the accounts.

Suggested Citation

  • Vardon, Michael & Burnett, Peter & Dovers, Stephen, 2016. "The accounting push and the policy pull: balancing environment and economic decisions," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 145-152.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:124:y:2016:i:c:p:145-152
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2016.01.021

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Anna Normyle & Michael Vardon & Bruce Doran, 2022. "Ecosystem accounting and the need to recognise Indigenous perspectives," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 9(1), pages 1-7, December.
    2. Bordt, Michael, 2018. "Discourses in Ecosystem Accounting: A Survey of the Expert Community," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 144(C), pages 82-99.
    3. David Lindenmayer, 2017. "Halting natural resource depletion: Engaging with economic and political power," The Economic and Labour Relations Review, , vol. 28(1), pages 41-56, March.
    4. Bagstad, Kenneth J. & Ingram, Jane Carter & Shapiro, Carl D. & La Notte, Alessandra & Maes, Joachim & Vallecillo, Sara & Casey, C. Frank & Glynn, Pierre D. & Heris, Mehdi P. & Johnson, Justin A. & Lau, 2021. "Lessons learned from development of natural capital accounts in the United States and European Union," Ecosystem Services, Elsevier, vol. 52(C).
    5. Ingram, Jane Carter & Bagstad, Kenneth J. & Vardon, Michael & Rhodes, Charles R. & Posner, Stephen & Casey, Clyde F. & Glynn, Pierre D. & Shapiro, Carl D., 2022. "Opportunities for businesses to use and support development of SEEA-aligned natural capital accounts," Ecosystem Services, Elsevier, vol. 55(C).
    6. Sylla, Marta & HarmÃ¡Ä ková, Zuzana V. & Grammatikopoulou, Ioanna & Whitham, Charlotte & Pártl, Adam & VaÄ kářová, Davina, 2021. "Methodological and empirical challenges of SEEA EEA in developing contexts: Towards ecosystem service accounts in the Kyrgyz Republic," Ecosystem Services, Elsevier, vol. 50(C).
    7. J B Ruhl & Stephen M Posner & Taylor H Ricketts, 2019. "Engaging policy in science writing: Patterns and strategies," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 14(8), pages 1-10, August.
    8. Onil Banerjee & Martin Cicowiez & Renato Vargas & Mark Horridge, 2019. "The SEEA-Based Integrated Economic-Environmental Modelling Framework: An Illustration with Guatemala’s Forest and Fuelwood Sector," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 72(2), pages 539-558, February.
    9. Maes, Mikaël J.A. & Jones, Kate E. & Toledano, Mireille B. & Milligan, Ben, 2020. "Accounting for natural capital has cross-cutting relevance for UK public sector decision-making," Ecosystem Services, Elsevier, vol. 44(C).
    10. Warnell, Katherine J.D. & Russell, Marc & Rhodes, Charles & Bagstad, Kenneth J. & Olander, Lydia P. & Nowak, David J. & Poudel, Rajendra & Glynn, Pierre D. & Hass, Julie L. & Hirabayashi, Satoshi & In, 2020. "Testing ecosystem accounting in the United States: A case study for the Southeast," Ecosystem Services, Elsevier, vol. 43(C).
    11. Capriolo, A. & Boschetto, R.G. & Mascolo, R.A. & Balbi, S. & Villa, F., 2020. "Biophysical and economic assessment of four ecosystem services for natural capital accounting in Italy," Ecosystem Services, Elsevier, vol. 46(C).
    12. Vardon, Michael & May, Steve & Keith, Heather & Burnett, Peter & Lindenmayer, David, 2019. "Accounting for ecosystem services – Lessons from Australia for its application and use in Oceania to achieve sustainable development," Ecosystem Services, Elsevier, vol. 39(C).
    13. Alexander, David & Blum, Véronique, 2016. "Ecological economics: A Luhmannian analysis of integrated reporting," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 241-251.
    14. Lomas, Pedro L. & Giampietro, Mario, 2017. "Environmental accounting for ecosystem conservation: Linking societal and ecosystem metabolisms," Ecological Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 346(C), pages 10-19.
    15. Ioannis Souliotis & Nikolaos Voulvoulis, 2021. "Natural Capital Accounting Informing Water Management Policies in Europe," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 13(20), pages 1-24, October.

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