The article is located in the social and environmental accounting research (SEAR) literature. A considerable body of work in the SEAR literature investigates the accounting and management practices and motives of businesses that report on their social, environmental or sustainability impacts. The potential value that researchers might derive in turning their attention to public services, social, environmental or sustainability practices, however, has been largely overlooked. The main objective of the article is to review relevant literature and ideas concerning accounting and accountability as key processes in advancing sustainability practices. The article also reviews the contributions to this PMR Special Issue and draws several conclusions.