Professor Frank Birkin

Professor of Accounting for Sustainable Development

Room: C080
Phone: +44 (0)114 222 3452
Twitter: @FrankKBirkin
Frank Birkin  

The aim of my research is to account for sustainable development. Whilst a key objective of this research is the development and implementation of practical forms of accounting for use by managers in a variety of institutions, the aim proves to be very wide-ranging for it embraces social, environmental and traditional forms of accounting as well as engineering, scientific, economic, social, philosophical and policy aspects of sustainable development. This is because the development of accounting for sustainable development requires conceptual, cultural, technical and political changes. My theoretical approach is rare amongst accounting theorists since I employ in essence a scientific realist rather than social constructivist understanding.


I have taught on a wide range of courses at undergraduate and post-graduate levels in accounting and business management. The modules I have taught include management accounting, social and organisational aspects of accounting, financial strategy and business administration. Much of my teaching derives directly from my research interests such as social and environmental accounting, environmental management accounting and accounting for sustainability. I have supervised ten PhD students.


I have both developed and applied my theoretical understanding in new practical management and accounting tools for sustainable development. For example, I won £300k+ European Union funding for an international project to develop a first account of the sustainable development performance of island tourism, Sustainable Tourism’s Environmental Protection System (STEPS) for islands. Also in close collaboration with Sheffield University’s Department of Civil Engineering, a team of environmental accounts of which I was a leading member have won over £1 million from the EPSRC for a series of projects relating to fresh and grey water management in the UK. My research has been published in wide-ranging international journals from Critical Perspectives on Accounting and the British Accounting Review to Business Strategy and the Environment and the International Journal of World Ecology and Sustainable Development. Recognition of my work has resulted in several international key-note speaker invitations, an invitation from the European Commission to participate in the development of a proposed service-sector eco-label and the co-hosting of a European conference on sustainable tourism in Venice with guest speakers from the European Commission, the United Nations Environment Programme, World Tourism Organisation, World Wide Fund for Nature as well as the national Italian environmental agency.

PhD Supervision

  • Environmental and Social Accounting
  • Environmental Management Accounting
  • Accounting for Sustainable Development
  • Episteme change analysis

Recent invited papers and keynote Lectures

"Intrinsic Sustainable Development & the role of accounting"

Invited talk at Gothenburg University (2012), Uppsala University (2012), American University of Sharjah (2013), Universidad Pablo de Olivade (2013), Universiddade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (2013), University of Montpellier (2013) & University of Burgos (2013).

Key Projects / Grants

Title/ Description Awarding body Dates People Involved Amount
Building capacities for corporate environmental management: a study of experiences in the Yunnan and Jiangsu provinces of the People’s Republic of China. EUROPEAID/117860/C/G 2006 - 2007 Universities of Sheffield, Barcelona, Kunming & Nanjing. £284210
STEPS (Sustainable Tourism’s Environmental Protection System) for Islands EU Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei, Milan 1999 - 2001 £310000
Preventative Environmental Management for Small Enterprises (PREMISE) EU DGXII Environment Sheffield University, Kruger Consult, University of Lisbon, Institute of Ecological Economics Vienna. 1994 - 1996 £470,000 ECU