Accounting as a human right: the case of water information

James Hazelton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper aims to respond to increasing interest in the intersection between accounting and human rights and to explore whether access to information might itself constitute a human right. As human rights have "moral force", establishing access to information as a human right may act as a catalyst for policy change. The paper also aims to focus on environmental information, and specifically the case of corporate water-related disclosures. Design/methodology/approach: This paper follows Griffin and Sen, who suggest that a candidate human right might be recognised when it is consistent with "founding" human rights, it is important and it may be influenced by societal action. The specific case for access to corporate water-related information to constitute a human right is evaluated against these principles. Findings: Access to corporate water-related disclosures may indeed constitute a human right. Political participation is a founding human right, water is a critical subject of political debate, water-related information is required in order for political participation and the state is in a position to facilitate provision of such information. Corporate water disclosures may not necessarily be in the form of annual sustainability reports, however, but may include reporting by government agencies via public databases and product labelling. A countervailing corporate right to privacy is considered and found to be relevant but not necessarily incompatible with heightened disclosure obligations. Originality/value: This paper seeks to make both a theoretical and a practical contribution. Theoretically, the paper explores how reporting might be conceived from a rights-based perspective and provides a method for determining which disclosures might constitute a human right. Practically, the paper may assist those calling for improved disclosure regulation by showing how such calls might be embedded within human rights discourse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-311
Number of pages45
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013


  • human rights
  • water
  • sustainability reporting
  • information disclosure
  • financial reporting


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