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Accounting for Sustainability: A Dissenting Opinion

Author(s): Robert D. Cairns

Journal: Sustainability
ISSN 2071-1050

Volume: 3;
Issue: 9;
Start page: 1341;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: sustainability | sustainable development | present value | welfare | maximin | green accounting

Discounted-utilitarian welfare, the commonest social objective studied by economists, is the basis for the theory of green accounting in terms of social utility. Sustainability is a different type of social objective. Consequently, green accounting as derived in many empirical models is not appropriate for studying sustainability. Maximin is a consistent foundation for the analysis of sustainability, both weak and strong, that provides conceptually correct accounting prices. These prices are not yet practicable for real economies, however, and must await further advances. Sustainable development is a generalization of the notion of sustainability and can be analyzed using a generalization of maximin.
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