Rights-based accountability: the right to water information

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review


Purpose: This paper responds to increasing interest in the intersection between accounting and human rights. Rather than considering disclosures of performance in relation to human rights, the paper explores the notion of access to information constituting a human right. Since human rights have 'moral force', establishing the provision of environmental information as a human right may hasten policy change. The paper focuses on environmental information, and particularly the case of corporate water-related disclosures. Design/Methodology: Ideally, a candidate human right would be evaluated using a set of generally accepted principles which underpin all human rights. Such principles, however, do not exist. A second approach, which the paper adopts, is to identify key themes within human rights discourse and evaluate the candidate right in relation to these themes. The pertinent theme identified is the right of political participation, and the paper considers whether water is an important political issue and the extent to which water information might enable public participation in water policy formulation. Findings: The analysis suggests that access to corporate water-related disclosures may indeed constitute a human right. Such disclosures, however, may not necessarily be in the form of organisational sustainability accounts, but may encompass a much wider range of disclosure approaches, such as reporting by government agencies via public databases and product labelling. A countervailing corporate right to privacy is disputed on the basis that attributing moral agency to corporations ignores important limitations to corporate autonomy. Originality/Value: By considering how human rights might apply to accounting this work seeks to make a theoretical and practical contribution. Theoretically, the paper explores how accountability might be conceived from an rights-based perspective and the process for determining which disclosures might constitute a human right. Practically, the paper seeks to assist academics engaging with disclosure policy by suggesting how calls for improved disclosure practices might be framed within human rights discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConference proceedings
Subtitle of host publicationSixth Asia Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting Conference
Place of PublicationSydney
PublisherUniversity of Sydney
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 2010
EventAsia Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting Conference (6th : 2010) - Sydney
Duration: 11 Jul 201013 Jul 2010


ConferenceAsia Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting Conference (6th : 2010)


  • human rights
  • water
  • triple-bottom-line


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