Photo : Jacques Richard

Tribune of Jacques Richard


The world is in the grip of both unprecedented ecological and human crises. In the face of these serious problems, most policy makers are taking advice from 'environmental' economists who offer tools such as 'carbon pricing' or environmental taxes on consumers. In fact, for us ecological accountants, these tools are not only ineffective but also serve to cover the real causes of the current ecological and human disasters: they therefore waste precious time.

To support this statement, we make some important observations. It is not the consumers who are fundamentally responsible for this situation but the producers, mainly the large companies who impose their products with a lot of advertising. Nor are the markets, dear to economists, with their supply and demand curves, to blame in this affair, but rather management tools, notably capitalist accounting. Adam Smith, who ignored accounting like most of his fellow economists, saw the invisible hand of the markets but did not see the visible hand of the accountants who regulate these markets. Indeed, the management of capitalist firms is entirely dominated by a totally selfish and pernicious accounting system which is the fundamental cause of the current problems. This type of accounting is dangerous because it keeps systematically (but very effectively) only one type of capital, financial capital: money brought in by capitalists which must be strictly repaid, unlike other contributions.

We know that in order to set up a company, in addition to financial capital, human and natural capital are also needed. However, the latter two are unfortunately not strictly preserved and "repaid'': the former is negotiated on the labour market and the latter, more often than not, is considered as a simple object to be exploited at the lowest possible cost without any regard to its preservation. As a result of this accounting configuration, the cost of production of capitalist firms is a totally truncated cost since it omits the systematic consideration of the conservation of two of the types of capital.

Under these conditions, the prices of firms on the markets cannot correctly reflect the reality of economic phenomena. As for these firms’ profits, they are very often fictitious profits distributed to the detriment of the holders of human and natural capital. A kind of theft organised by a supposedly 'rational' accounting system.

"Adam Smith saw the invisible hand of the markets but did not see the visible hand of the accountants"

This iniquitous accounting is endorsed on a global scale. These same States, whether socialist, liberal or communist, which have a hard time agreeing on international legislation to protect the Earth and workers, have nevertheless agreed to impose accounting regulations to protect financial capital in their respective countries. This unique international law is called the IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) Code. Although this fact is little known to most citizens, an Accounting International does exist. It dominates the economies of the world. This accounting law, which is disastrous for the planet, is accompanied by state rights which everywhere ratify the power of the shareholders alone. These are the real causes of the current situation.

To get out of it, we offer a new ecological and human accounting system associated with an alternative management: the CARE model (Comprehensive Accounting in Respect of Ecology) coupled with an ecological co-governance. Its basic idea is, like certain martial arts, to turn the main weapon of capitalists against them and to treat the “brought” human and natural capital to firms as financial capital. When a capitalist founds a firm with a sum of money S, he records his concrete money (cash or cheques) on the assets side of his balance sheet and, at the same time (double entry), records an equal amount of abstract money on the liabilities side of the same balance sheet as a debt to be repaid to him unconditionally and giving him power in his firm. The CARE revolution consists in extending these privileges to the contributions of human and natural capital.


Jacques Ricard 

has a doctorate in management science and is a chartered accountant. He is a professor emeritus at the University of Paris Dauphine and a member of the Accounting Standards Authority. He is a laureate of The Academia of Accounting Historians. He has published roughly sixty articles in international journals and twenty books in the field of international accounting and ecological accounting. His latest book, published in 2020 by Editions de l'Atelier, is entitled Révolution comptable. Pour une entreprise écologique et sociale (“Revolution in accounting. For an ecological and social company”).

Must Read, Must See
Jacques Richard in coll. with Alexandre Rambaud
Révolution Comptable - Pour une entreprise écologique et sociale. Les Éditions de l’atelier, 2020.

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