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Nature inspires research for award-winning professor

An accounting professor’s boyhood love of the outdoors has inspired 30 years of research into the social and environmental impacts of organisations, and how they account for and communicate those impacts.

University of Canterbury (UC) Accounting Professor Markus J. Milne was recognised for his work at the Asia-Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting (APIRA) conference last week when he was inducted into the Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal (AAAJ) Hall of Fame for “distinguished service contributions to the progress of interdisciplinary accounting research”.

One of only a handful of experts based in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, Professor Milne says he is driven by a “love of the outdoors, nature, and a sense of justice”.

His work was first published in the 1991 special issue of AAAJ on ‘Green Accounting’, and he has continued to investigate and critique modern organisations’ relationships with the natural environment.

“I’ve always thought that accounting should play a major role in monitoring how society produces wealth and what the cost of that is, and who bears it, other than in profit and loss terms. The impacts on the natural world and social sphere cannot be discounted from organisational reporting, and while I have seen awareness of this growing over the last 10 years in particular, there is still a lot of variation in how social, environmental and sustainability information is reported and communicated across different sectors and organisations,” Professor Milne says.

“I hope my work will draw attention to the need for more honest, comprehensive, meaningful and independently attested triple bottom line reporting.”

Professor Milne has received many accolades for his work. In 2009, he and his co-authors received the Mary Parker Follet Award for best paper in AAAJ; this was followed by three Emerald citations of excellence awards, induction into the Congress on Social and Environmental Accounting Research Hall of Fame in 2016, and awarding of a Doctor of Commerce degree from UC for significant original publications in the fields of social and environmental accounting and sustainability, also in 2016. Professor Milne has received three social science Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden research awards and his work has appeared in many leading international accounting journals and textbooks.

This week Professor Milne heads to Scotland and England for six months to work on two major research projects, to attend the largest gathering of researchers in his field – the annual congress of the International Centre for Social and Environmental Accounting Research – and to spend time at St Andrew’s University and the University of Exeter with other international leading researchers in this specialist, but growing, field.

UC Alumni working in cross-disciplinary accounting are previous inductees to the AAAJ Hall of Fame, including the late Professor Kerry Jacobs and Professor Jan Bebbington, while several other inductees were previous Erskine visitors to UC including Professors Rob Gray, Jesse Dillard, Richard Laughlin and Niamh Brennan.

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