Monday, 3 February 2020

Another call for papers on sustainability in accounting? Please let's help us stop it!

By Diane-Laure Arjaliès, Michelle Rodrigue, and Andrea Romi

Reflections on the call for papers “Accounting for the circular economy” in Accounting Forum

Let’s be clear. Guest editing a special issue is an unspeakable source of pleasure: collaborating with colleagues, helping authors find their voice, consolidating a research project, contemplating the product of our dreams taking shape as days and nights and review letters unfold… and writing an editorial with no worry about whether the latter will be accepted or not feels nice, fun and – let’s admit it – ego flattering. Although we do love the research community and contributing to the latter, one must also admit that we might well spend our time doing something else, like hiking, renovating houses or taking care of our kids. Academics are also human beings, after all.

So, let’s be clear again. If we proposed this call for papers on “Accounting for the Circular Economy” to Accounting Forum, it is because we felt that we desperately needed it. Yes, the research on the circular economy is not new, albeit it might have been approached under a different label (see Milne and Gray, 2013). Yes, Schumacher (1973) is right in his assessment that knowledge and understanding are gradual processes of great subtlety. And yes, there have been other calls in the past on sustainability and accounting that look similar. But still, we have not solved humxnkinds’[1] most significant problems – such as the imminent collapse of ecosystems all over the world, the drama of the microplastic polluting our oceans or the rise of global inequalities, among many others.

How can a call for papers on the circular economy for accounting help? First, because even if in a matter of six decades we have achieved little, it does not mean we should stop trying to influence and stimulate change. Hope is life, and one should fight till the end, if not for us, at least for the next generations. After all, many of us do our best to be compassionate individuals. Second, because there is actually relatively little research on the circular economy in the field of accounting specifically – yet this is maybe a place where accountants could play a key role and where (for once) research could trigger real change. Last, because a special issue can provide a space for scholars to engage in an open dialogue, and hopefully act toward the betterment of all.

In the rest of this blog, we will elaborate on each of these points. We will also bring some evidence on the state of the planet – in case there are still some readers who believe that we are participating in a giant conspiracy attempt – and explain why we should keep fighting and hoping. But as we are also aware that some might need to rush to the classroom, let us summarize what we are looking for in this special issue:
  • Papers that deal with accounting for the circular economy – in a broad sense of the term, on any aspect of it, from any research tradition, with any methodology, and any geography.
  • Interdisciplinary lenses, (critical) essays, reviews, fictions: those lonely children will be appreciated as much as their big siblings.
  • Big names, not such big names, big schools, small schools, doctoral students, stressed tenure-track, relaxed emeritus: everybody is welcome. We strive for inclusion; what matters is the quality of the work.
We will host a workshop at the CSEAR NA Conference in July 2020, during which we will provide developmental reviews, but you are not obliged to attend in order to submit. Deadline is October 31st. Now that you know the practicalities, let’s dig into the research itself.

The United Nation Convention on Biological Diversity just released a report indicating the Earth’s animal population is facing unprecedented mass extinction rates during the next ten years due to the ongoing biodiversity crisis (Yeung, 2020). Biodiversity is fundamental to the survival of humxnity and while there have been environmental effort and attention to this issue over time, the problem is “projected to continue or worsen under business-as-usual scenarios.” The outlook for Earth and its inhabitants looks even more dire when we turn to scientists. A recent article in Science, titled “Pervasive human-driven decline of life on Earth points to the need for transformative change,” addresses the idea that scientists have been raising a red flag and calling for societal change, reducing our impact on nature, for decades, yet the natural environment continues to decline due mainly to the abundance of humxn consumption (Díaz et al., 2020). They too address that only an immediate transformation of the “global business-as-usual economies and operations will sustain nature as we know it, and us, into the future” (Díaz et al., 2020, p. eaax310).

So, here we are, writing about the same issues of those in the 1960s, warning humxns of their actions and the broken production processes, driven by capitalist economics and the marketization of mass production and consumption. And, in spite of all this research-based activity and evidence, a recent internal United States’ Department of Homeland Security document described five non-violent climate activist who cut through fencing and turned off valves on several pipelines carrying crude oil from Canada's tar sands to refineries as "extremists" (Federman, 2020). Sharing space in a category to date reserved for the likes of white supremacists and mass killers. So, what then is the answer? Business as usual? Continue to fight a significantly worsening issue with the same tactics and the same research? Haven’t we been taught since childhood that we can overcome such overwhelming tasks? Is this a David and Goliath moment? Can we be the tortoise and still beat the rapidly detrimental environmental hare? Are these stories just that, a method to keep the common humxn reliant on hope even in the direst situations, refocusing them from the key issues at hand, the real culprit – the system?   Or is it sufficient to merely gather in pubs and critically dismantle all attempts toward such positive change? We would argue this is not working given that the amount of degradational change to Earth over the last half-century is almost incommensurable.

Yet, in spite of growing criticisms about inevitable failures on the part of ever-consuming humxns, we refuse to give up. We instead choose to grasp at hope, even if small. There have been true success stories of humxnkind’s impact on the combination of extinction and preservation. In 1918, a supply ship ran aground on Lord Howe Island. While being fixed, rats on board the ship escaped onto the island (Gibbens, 2017). These rats proceeded to feed on a very large insect known as the Dryococelus australis, or more commonly as the Stick Insect or Tree Lobster, driving the insect into extinction (humxn interventive extinction we should add). In the 1960s, rock climbers thought they saw the insect, yet no one was willing to scale the dangerous area at night, when the nocturnal insect could be examined. In 2001, intellectual curiosity and the desire for knowledge changed, and scientists decided to step up to the challenge and took four of those insects from the island to Australia for preservation. In a successful effort, this insect emerged from extinction, but it took intervention and a new perspective for the scientists and a new way of life for the insect, a similar combination we would argue needed to save humxnkind at the moment.

This brings us back to Schumacher and his claim that one of the most fateful errors of his time, and now our time again, is the belief that 'the problem of production' has been solved. Maybe our research needs to focus on “construct[ing] a political system so perfect that human wickedness disappears and everybody behaves well, no matter how much wickedness there may be in [them]” (Schumacher, 1973, p. 4). Maybe we need to shift our focus from influencing corporations to influencing the economic and political systems which support consumption and the dissolution of our natural world. This will not be an accounting solution alone, but an integrated solution, aligned with our research call. Research on the circular economy is not narrowly subject to discussions of production in a corporate and capitalist system, but might also provide empirical suggestions for some of the immediate and extreme change needed in our political and economic systems.

Successful attempts at transitioning to a circular economy model requires a systemic shift in business approaches - one in which value is redefined in order to find worth in elements that were once neglected or discarded; one in which traditional ways of doing business are cast aside and in which networks and partnerships are pivotal (Paquin & Howard-Grenville, 2013).  While this shift has been discussed for some time now, in different disciplines and under different labels, the success of the transition remains ever evasive. This state of stagnation – Failure? - Utmost concern? - led us to develop this call for papers. Whether accounting for the circular economy it is old news to some or a new topic for others is beyond the point. What matters is to try yet again to stimulate change in our destructive economic system. Our call for papers aims to encourage scholars to (re)engage with the circular economy movement and reflect on the role of accounting in this process.

You can read more about our special issue here.

Díaz, S., Settele, J., Brondízio, E. S., Ngo, H. T., Agard, J., Arneth, A., Balvanera, P., Brauman, K. A., Butchart, S. H. M., Chan, K. M. A., Garibaldi, L. A., Ichii, K., Liu, J., Subramanian, S. M., Midgley, G. F., Miloslavich, P., Molnár, Z., Obura, D., Pfaff, A., Polasky, S., Purvis, A., Razzaque, J., Reyers, B.,  Chowdhury, R. R., Shin, Y-J, Visseren-Hamakers, I., Willis, K. J., and Zayas, C. N. 2020. Pervasive human-driven decline of life on Earth points to the need for transformative change. Science, (6471), eaax 3100.366. DOI: 10.1126/science.aax3100.

Federman, A. 2020. Revealed: US listed climate activist group as ‘extremists’ alongside mass killers. The Guardian, January 13, 2020. Accessible at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jan/13/us-listed-climate-activist-group-extremists

Gibbens, S. 2017. Huge 'Tree Lobster' not extinct after all. National Geographic, October 9, 2017 Accessible at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/10/lord-howe-island-stick-insect-dna-spd/#close

Milne, M. J., & Gray, R. (2013). W(h)ither Ecology? The Triple Bottom Line, the Global Reporting Initiative, and Corporate Sustainability Reporting. Journal of Business Ethics, 118(1), 13-29.

Paquin, R. L., & Howard-Grenville, J. (2013). Blind Dates and Arranged Marriages: Longitudinal Processes of Network Orchestration. Organization Studies, 34(11), 1623–1653.

Schumacher, E. F. 1973. Small is beautiful: Economics as if people mattered. New York: Harper & Row.

Yeung, J. 2020. “We have 10 years to save Earth's biodiversity as mass extinction caused by humans takes hold, UN warns”. CNN.com, January 20, 2020. Accessible at: https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/14/world/un-biodiversity-draft-plan-intl-hnk-scli-scn/index.html

Editor's note: this blog article was originally published on the EAA-ARC blog on 24 January 2020, and is republished here with permission.

[1] We rely on the alternative spelling of human (i.e., humxn) as a gender-inclusive expression repudiating the traditions that define all individuals by a reference to a male norm.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Developing Accountants for more Creative Futures

Alessandro Ghio (Monash University)
Thomas Kern (The Accountability Institute)
Nick McGuigan (Monash University | The Accountability Institute)

How can we foster a socially progressive accounting that is based on human-centered design? Can we radically and openly discard the ‘Accounting as Art or Science’ debate, and transition towards explicitly addressing accounting as a social construct? A social construct that we feel needs reorganising, reinterpreting, reworking and repackaging for a dramatically changing world.

We have been thinking about the future of the world, of human organising and of doing business. We have been thinking a lot about governance and accountability of a changing world. How best to facilitate the future learning of accounting? What accounting really means in such social contexts? We began to question current economic principles, systems and the assumptions underpinning them. Is up the only way? Is growth the only measure of success? How is accounting and its language entangled up in all this? These conversations led to the laying of an alternative path, reinvigorating accounting education, by adopting a more humanistic approach to accounting.

The course ‘Global Issues in Accounting’ was thus designed and created as a type of experiment exploring the intersections of accounting, art, society and futures, integrating within a cohesive ecological narrative.  This undergraduate course taught in the last year of studies at Monash University in Melbourne (Australia) envisions a space for students to explore their lived experience, contextualise this and create their own unique understanding of accounting. Educators and students work collaboratively and creatively to interrogate accounting frameworks, accountability and conscious leadership. Students do this across three different contexts, the individual, the profession, and society. This has enabled them to see more than accounting’s technical aspects, and to explore how accounting fits into the world around them.

We based our course design on the principles of Constructivist Developmental Pedagogy developed by Marcia Baxter-Magolda at the University of Ohio. This approach is based on three decades of empirical work investigating epistemological understanding of her students. Constructivist Developmental Pedagogy promotes an active involvement in the process of sensemaking and knowledge creation. Baxter-Magolda believes that the three elements necessary for effective learning are:
  1. A validation of students as knowers, acknowledging students have prior understandings and experience;
  2. Learning needs to be situated within the lived experience of students;
  3. Learning is seen as a mutual construction of meaning between students and educators.
So in actively thinking and designing our learning experiences for students the teaching team constantly hold these principles in mind and actively search for engaging ways in which to explore material in this way jointly with our students.

In this context, we draw on humanities and the natural sciences to provoke and induce student imagination and to continuously challenge the role of accounting in society.

We draw on permaculture[1] design principles to investigate a systems approach to accounting. Students have the opportunity to explore a permaculture garden, where they are introduced to the permaculture ethics and design principles. Students explore a natural ecosystem through a permaculture lens, and subsequently contrast this against the human design system of accounting and its business context. In doing so, they start to see how such design principles could inform the organising of business and new forms of governance.

Figure 1. Permaculture garden site visit and discussion

To further prepare students for a complex and changing professional environment, we use context-specific case-study design, where students explore the role of accounting within the Australian refugee crisis as a part of their in-semester assessment. Students analyse and evaluate the financial statements of BroadSpectrum (the organisation responsible for Australia’s offshore detention centres). Students then view ‘Chasing Asylum’, a documentary exposing Australia’s offshore detention policies. This is instrumental to reflect on what they have seen and compare this to their financial analysis. They then bring together their learning across both activities, with their exploration of theoretical accounting viewpoints discussed in seminars, to critically question whether - “current business is immoral?” This encourages our students to think widely about the context in which accounting operates, where students see heightened relevance in accounting assessments.

Further provocation towards ethical reasoning and social, environmental impacts, is achieved through the use of a creative design method of ‘futuring’. Developed and actively trialled by Johan Galtung in the context of peace development, this creative design approach draws heavily on constructivist principles to enact positive ways of solving complex problems. Being placed in the year 2039 our students are asked to reflect back on their relationship to accounting in 2019, students then brainstorm key structural and behavioural forces of change that are and will continue to affect society in the future. By choosing two of these forces of change they then create a quadrant which affords them the opportunity to populate four different accounting futures. These in turn are evaluated by students and presented amongst their peers. Students leave the room empowered and more prepared for an undetermined future:
“During the discussion, we formed constructive arguments that brought a different understanding to what Accounting is and will be in the future. I felt that we were encouraged to think out the box and provide our own opinions towards the task. Very rarely are we required to express our thoughts in a more mature manner. This unit has enabled me to think out of the box, a very important element.” 
Figure 2. Students collaborating to create unboxing videos

Finally, we make use of artistic ways of thinking and doing to develop an activity that asks students to discuss the idea of becoming a professional. To stimulate students’ imagination, we employ the use of unboxing videos, finding recent popularity on YouTube. Unboxing videos are advertisements of new products where individuals unbox new products they receive, or they are used by celebrities to sponsor products. Students are usually familiar with such videos and associate them with today’s consumerism. We ask students to create their own type of unboxing video that addresses the question ‘What role should accountants have in today’s society?’ We provide various material, e.g. play-doh, children’s toys, chalk, coloured paper to invite students to think about the accounting profession with objects not usually associated with accounting. In their one-minute video, students express their creativity. Examples of videos developed include future-oriented accountants that make use of new forms of technology, accountants problematising the integration of non-financial matters, and accountants as part of wider eco-systems. We watch the videos together so students can explore their peers’ views of the accountants’ role in society and stimulate follow-up debate and discussion. 

Figure 3. Futuring seminars, depicting student engagement and future mapping 

‘Global Issues in Accounting’ was awarded a 2019 Ideas worth Teaching Award by The Aspen Institute in New York. This award honours educators and universities which are redefining business education by providing learning experiences that equip managers of tomorrow with the context, skills and decision-making capabilities needed to lead in an increasingly complex business environment.

By creating transformative learning experiences that ask students to transform their own world, this course provides the space for students to grow as professionals, active members of society. Students actively position accounting within its broader social context, develop skills associated with holistic and integrated thinking, complex decision-making, creative brainstorming and sensemaking required to engage in a complex and rapidly changing profession and society.

[1] Permaculture, standing for permanent agriculture, was developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in Australia during the 1970s. Permaculture is a human design system derived from indigenous community practices from around the world and comprises of 3 ethics and 12 design principles. These can in turn be used by humans to design self-sustaining ways of living.  


Monday, 11 November 2019

Frustration, schizophrenia and a touch of sneakiness: insights in the process of doing ethnographic research

By Michelle van Weeren, Université Paris Dauphine

Winner of the inaugural Best Paper Award at the 2019 CSEAR International Congress

This summer, I participated for the first time in the Emerging Scholar Colloquium and the International Congress on Social and Environmental Accounting Research hosted by the University of St. Andrews from the 25th to 29th of August. I was quite positively surprised as I discovered the approachability of the senior researchers, it was clear that this was an open community willing to help and encourage future members. I was even more surprised as it turned out that my co-author Clarence Bluntz and me had been awarded with a prize for the best paper of the conference for our article “It’s not about manipulating the results, it’s about refining the methodology”- creative friction in the production of sustainability ratings. I was actually just about to sneak away to my room in the Agnes Blackadder Hall to practice this paper’s presentation that I was supposed to hold for the next day as Michelle Rodrigue stopped me and summoned me back to the conference room, where the award ceremony was just going to start. I was flabbergasted to hear we had won (to be honest, I wasn’t really aware of the existence of this ceremony that was organized for the first time this year) and unable to say a word, but luckily for me, this was not required for my picture being taken (it would have been better to keep my eyes open, though). All this did not exactly lower my level of tension for the next day’s presentation, but I am of course very grateful and happy with CSEAR’s recognition of our work.

The paper was, in the words of inaugural Best Paper Award Committee member Matias Laine, “not the most polished paper”, but the result of an “innovative approach in an area that needs more research”. For this blogpost, I thought it might be interesting to write a few words about this innovative approach.

The article is the result of an ethnography I conducted in the young sustainability rating agency where I used to work as an analyst for a period of three years. Just like most of my colleagues, I started working there with the firm conviction that sustainability ratings could help to bring ethics to the financial sector, thus making it a powerful lever for conducting a positive change in the world. This idea was reflected in the features of the agency’s rating methodology, that was based on strong sustainability principles but at the same time relied on the analysts’ capacity to ask the right questions rather than on quantitative and standardized checklists. This qualitative approach to evaluation worked out fine within the borders of our organisation but was, as it turned out as the agency matured and confronted its products to the market, not quite understood by the companies we rated. The result was a non-linear standardisation process of the rating methodology, with the analysts struggling with the tension between an internal pressure to make sense of sustainability performance while sticking to a case-by-case and common sense-based form of judgment, and an external pressure to communicate their ratings on sustainability performance in a way that was acceptable for external parties. This process was full of paradoxical situations and moments of bricolage where analysts had to make arbitrations between these two types of pressure.

Of course, the above-described analysis did not occur to me as precisely as I now write it down while I was still working there. The starting point of the project was rather one of general wonder about what was going on. Fascinated with the struggles my colleagues and I were going through but also fairly frustrated with the concessions we had to make to comply with external expectations, I started to keep a diary about one and a half year after my hiring. As my colleagues and me were working in an open space with all doors and walls made of glass and my screen was facing the hall where everybody continuously passed to grab a coffee in the kitchen, I had to be very careful with the Google Doc I used. I also had to be careful with What’s App that was installed on my desktop and that I used to talk to my friend Clarence Bluntz, who was in the second year of his Ph.D. at the time and with whom I shared my observations.

As my notes piled up and thanks to discussions with Clarence, who came to the company twice to conduct interviews with my colleagues (this part of the data collection was thus fully uncovered), I was more and more able to see the events at the agency from a distance. At the same time, I still was one of the analysts and had to complete my ratings and attend meetings just like all of my colleagues. When something occurred at the company everyone was upset about (this happened quite frequently), I at first felt just as troubled as everyone else, but quite quickly I was also able to analyse the events from a greater distance, thanks to Clarence and to the observing approach I had taken and that had become natural. The result was a sort of schizophrenic state of being, switching back and forth from playing the role of a devoted employee to being a kind of undercover agent. This was not always easy and more than once I felt scared or guilty about my sneaky behaviour.

It is now more than a year ago since I left the company and started my Ph.D., which can be regarded as the continuation of this ethnographic work. Because I wondered whether the tensions my colleagues and I experienced are shared more widely in the field, I have been doing interviews with analysts and other actors from the French sector for responsible investment during the past year. Thanks to these discussions and to my readings, I now understand that the company I used to work actually was an exception in the field, sticking to a strongly ethically-driven approach to sustainability analysis in a sector where this type of analysis is more and more instrumentalised to better identify financially material risks and opportunities. This does not mean that tensions are not felt by analysts in other organizations, but generally, they do not get the same degree of autonomy from their managers to develop and refine their own methodologies, that are often highly formalized. In other words: if we wanted to attract mainstream investors, who are used to quantitative reports and data, we did not have any other choice than to adapt ourselves, and it is rather praiseworthy that our employer gave us the freedom to carry out this adaptation process as we wished, thus leaving room for our own interpretation of the compromise between ethics and efficiency.

The frustration that led to this inquiry at the start has thus made place for a more nuanced view on my period as a sustainability analyst. The schizophrenia has disappeared, as I am now a full-time academic. The guilt about the sneakiness that my covert participatory observation implied stayed, as I never disclosed my full intentions and the detail of the data collection process to my former employer (the project would not have been possible if I had). The odds are low that he will ever read this blogpost, but if one day he would, I can only hope that he will be able to appreciate the honesty of this confession.

Friday, 1 November 2019

Teaching Management Control for Sustainability

By Delphine Gibassier, Audencia Business School

Next Tuesday I will have my class on management controls for sustainability. Many colleagues, who normally teach environmental and social accounting classes tell me, they do not teach management control, because they would not know how to. As of today, no excuse, here is how I teach it!

The content of the course is as follows:

1/ I teach a definition of it (that you can find in Crutzen et al. 2017)


2/ I first use a classic classification of management control tools by Schaltegger et al. 2000 (Schaltegger, S. and Burritt, R., 2000, Contemporary Environmental Accounting. Issues, Concepts and Practice, Greenleaf, Sheffield.), that exists in French (Antheaume, 2013) and has been also used in Burritt et al. 2011 with carbon as an example.

3/ I introduce Simons' controls (1995) and the example of them being used by Arjaliès and Mundy (2013) in the French CAC 40 companies.

4/ I then introduce further the "integration" of sustainability through management control systems, with the paper by Gond et al. 2012

5/ Last but not least, I finish through the "package" view of Malmi and Brown 2008, used in Crutzen et al. 2017 and the Michelin case study (Baker et al. 2018).


(do not reuse without authorization, Gibassier, 2018)

6/ I introduce the notion of management controls beyond the company (you need to for sustainability) using the figure 1 in the paper "Environmental Management Accounting: The Missing Link to Sustainability?" (2018).

7/ I explain what are "controls for sustainability using the different tables of the same paper (Gibassier and Alcouffe, 2018)


This table is used in our SEAJ special issue intro and Baker et al. 2018. If you use it, cite it!

8/ I present a few tools such as "green capex" (you can use Vesty et al. 2015, or examples using Finance for the Futures Case study of SHE)

9/ Finally I introduce the notion of "sustainability management controller". You can use both Renaud (2014)'s paper (available in French & English) and our report on sustainability CFOs.

I have them read the Michelin Case Study (2018) and then we do an exercice (same as Michelin) to look for controls and put them in the "package" way, +reflect on their sustainability orientation. I am using in French the last L'Oréal report, but any (short) report will do.

You can use our case study on Danone which talks about many of those items available in French and English at the CCMP website.
(this class is part of my "societal impact class where I teach 15 hours, 3 hours on management controls, and the rest on natural capital, social capital and multi-capitals).

More resources here:



More papers here:

  • Bartolomeo, M., Bennett, M., Bouma, J.J., Heydkamp, P., James, P., and T.Wolters. 2000. “Environmental management accounting in Europe: current practice and future potential. “ European Accounting Review 9: 31–52.
  • Guenther, E., Endrikat, J., and T.W. Guenther. 2016. “Environmental management control systems: a conceptualization and a review of the empirical evidence.” Journal of Cleaner Production. 
  • Lisi, I.E., 2015. “Translating environmental motivations into performance: The role of environmental performance measurement systems.” Management Accounting Research 29: 27–44. 
  • Milne, M.J. 1996. “On sustainability ; the environment and management accounting.” Management Accounting Research 7: 135–161.
  • Norris, G., and B. O'Dwyer. 2004. “Motivating socially responsive decision making: the operation of management controls in a socially responsive organisation.” The British Accounting Review 36: 173–196.
  • Rodrigue, M., Magnan, M., and E. Boulianne. 2013. “Stakeholders’ influence on environmental strategy and performance indicators: A managerial perspective.” Management Accounting Research.
  • Schaltegger, S., and D.Zvezdov. 2015. “Gatekeepers of sustainability information: exploring the roles of accountants.” Journal of Accounting and Organizational Change 11: 333–361.
  • Songini, L., and A. Pistoni. 2012. “Accounting, auditing and control for sustainability.” Management Accounting Research 23: 202–204.


See SEAJ 2018 special issue on this, and the 2013 MAR special issue.
Look for papers in AAAJ and SAMPJ recently (from 2012 to now), and papers by Leanne Johnstone as well.
Check out the EMAN group books, and Stefan Schaltegger's work (as well as Roger Burritt's work).

Editor's note: this blog article was originally published on Delphine Gibassier's own blog in October 2019, and is republished here with permission.

Monday, 21 October 2019

6th Emerging Scholar Colloquium and the 31st International Congress on Social and Environmental Accounting Research, 2019: Insights and thoughts from an emerging scholar

By Miriam Corrado

From the 25th to 29th August, the University of St. Andrews hosted the 6th Emerging Scholar Colloquium and the 31st International Congress on Social and Environmental Accounting Research, joining together several emerging scholars, experienced researchers and professors from all around the world.

It was the first time I have participated in the Emerging Scholar Colloquium, and the desire to meet with the academics who, through their journal contributions, are at the basis of my academic training and knowledge, was very strong. Indeed, when I received the letter of acceptance for the Emerging Scholar Colloquium, I felt honoured but at the same time hesitant, to present and talk about my research in an international context such as CSEAR.

Thanks to the generous support from the sponsors (many thanks to Robin Roberts, Pegasus Professor and Al and Nancy Burnett Eminent Scholar Chair in The Kenneth G. Dixon School of Accounting at the University of Central Florida, USA, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and Charles Cho, Professor of Accounting and the Erivan K. Haub Chair in Business & Sustainability in the Schulich School of Business at York University, Canada), CSEAR has been able to offer bursaries to selected emerging scholars, providing us an opportunity to present our research projects to a cohort of distinguished international faculty and to be introduced into the social and environmental accounting research community.

As soon as I was welcomed at the Agnes Blackadder Hall on Sunday 25th August, I suddenly perceived the friendly and comfortable environment which the CSEAR community enjoy. That impression was confirmed the next morning when Lori Leigh Davis warmly welcomed all the emerging scholars in the Gateway Building, making us feel like we have always been part of that community. The colloquium proved to be useful and constructive, as well as the following days during the CSEAR UK Congress, especially for creating a lively and engaged forum for discussion and reflections on emerging issues in social and environmental accounting research.

I would like to thank the organising committee and the Faculty members (in particular Jesse Dillard, Ericka Costa, Matias Laine, Den Patten, Shona Russell, Ian Thomson, Giovanna Michelon and Carmen Correa) for the opportunity given to share our ideas, to learn through their constructive feedback and, in particular, to give suggestions for our academic career such as the guide for the publication process.

I would strongly recommend to all early researchers and PhD student, to catch the opportunity like the one offered by CSEAR for two main reasons: first, the comparison with other researchers and PhD students from all around the world, allow you to open up your mind, to know about different practice existing in academia and build a strong network; second, the discussion with the Faculty members allow to expand your own research insights thanks to the different backgrounds, research traditions and expertise of various theoretical and methodological approaches of each member.

Many thanks,
Miriam


Friday, 20 September 2019

Climate Emergency, Climate Action and Accounting Education?

By Ian Thomson, University of Birmingham Business School and CSEAR Executive Council Convenor

Today, the 20th September 2019, children in the UK and around the world are participating in mass demonstrations stressing the need for global action on climate change. Climate scientists warnings are more urgent,  nations are waking up to this climate emergency, some financial institutions are divesting of fossil fuel investments levels, some businesses are reducing their carbon footprint and a growing number of committed individuals are struggling to live low carbon lives. Despite an awareness of how to resolve this, where change is happening it appears too slow to make a difference.

Despite this crisis, many universities and business schools continue to teach accounting and finance, with its hidden carbon curriculum, as if they were climate change deniers. The need for carbon literate graduates has never been greater, yet with a few notable exceptions accounting and finance programmes across the world are largely ignoring this global challenge. Carbon accounting and finance needs to become the new normal for our students.

Of all the social and environment accounting topics this is perhaps the easiest to assimilate into professional practice and is broadly supported by professional accountancy bodies. Carbon intensity disclosures are part of UK corporate reporting and in many other countries. There are standards, protocols, taxes, techniques to measure carbon in ways that can be appropriated into organisational decision processes and reporting.

However, we must ask ourselves how competent are graduates from your programme in understanding drivers of climate change, deciding which carbon accounting method to use,  applying carbon accounting methods and making meaningful and impactful recommendations as to the lowest carbon course of action. Even though I have been teaching this topic for over 25 years I only reach a percentage of our students. These students are aware of the topic, but far from competent in doing carbon accounting.

So why it is it that in 2019, climate literacy and carbon accounting are not core parts of our degrees?

  • Why do we not teach our students to become carbon literate and provide them with the accounting skills to contribute to the meaningful application of carbon accounting to real world problems?
  • Why do we teaching management accounting students to resolve problems with labour or machine capacity constraints, but not with carbon constraints?
  • Why to do teach students about asset impairment standards, but not taking into account unburnable fossil fuels or stranded assets? 
  • Why do we not teach students to take into account carbon emissions as a material risk in audits? 
  • Why is possible exposure to future regulations on carbon, not a factor in corporate valuations or setting cost of capital? 

The list of whys could go on and on. Before you get too annoyed with me – I know many of you are doing wonderful things in this space, and members of the CSEAR community are at the frontiers of practices. But we need every graduate in every institution to have some level of capacity in climate literacy and effective carbon accounting.

This is a challenge CSEAR should take the lead on. I would like us to share our best practice, create learning resources that are translated into different languages. We also need greater accountability and transparency on how climate change is integrated into global accountancy education programmes.

This will not solve climate change on its own, but is a necessary first step, and at least may mitigate the worst consequences of the production of carbon illiterate accounting and finance graduates. This is not a trivial task, but we have the expertise, knowledge, ability and motivation to change what we teach in our programmes. Let us not be bystanders as the world burns.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Can Accountants Save the World? Incorporating Sustainability in Accounting Courses and Curricula

By Charles Cho and Hannele Mäkelä

The new academic year is about to start, turning our minds back into teaching. How tempting it would be to take the slides from the prior year(s) and do what we know best. However, recent changes in global governance and accounting standard setters’ agenda encourage (force?) us to step outside our comfort zone and think: “how can we incorporate sustainability into accounting courses and curricula?”

While many of us have successfully been doing this for years, and even more of us regularly experiment with novel ideas in their teaching, it is time that we, as a community, start carrying responsibility and take action towards a better – and more formal – alignment between accounting and sustainability. Pursuing sustainable development and mitigation of climate change require new understandings of corporate accountability and measuring corporate performance. How companies manage sustainability is crucial for their long-term success. It is no longer enough to measure organisational success by financial measures only. The role of accounting is acknowledged central in achieving sustainability, as strongly emphasized by high-profile speakers at the recent World Congress of Accountants – including former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales and Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England.

For instance, recent developments for non-financial reporting require new understandings of social and environmental value, and how to account and measure for such value. Carbon accounting and disclosure, water accounting, and human capital accounting are just a few examples of the types of non-financial information that companies are now required to disclose. Consequently, and in parallel, business schools are globally and increasingly expected to commit to sustainability education. How can we as academics, researchers and teachers, equip future accounting professionals to better deal with the challenges (and possibilities?) associated with sustainability issues?

Both of us have recently attended workshops, panel discussions and other related events with valuable opportunities to learn and share thoughts around accounting and sustainability with experts from different backgrounds. One of us is part of a group of eight Canadian academics who (still) call for an “integration of sustainability into the CPA Canada curriculum” as follows:
It is our responsibility – as accounting educators and researchers – to contribute to the sustainable development of the profession. This academic commitment to accounting is also an engagement that will ensure the prosperity of future generations. We live in turbulent times where the natural resources of the planet are compromising economic growth, where fiduciary duty requires the inclusion of environmental, social and governance issues and where the ethics of economic actors has become essential to the conduct of business. The integration of sustainability into the CPA Canada curriculum is crucial to the building of a successful, inclusive and leading accounting profession that could pursue an ideal of good business.
We firmly believe that besides the new tools and accounting-related ideas and theories we teach at our business schools – and perhaps as a driver for change –  the accounting profession, via its professional orders, associations and/or societies (e.g., ACCA, AICPA, CA ANZ, CPA Canada, ICAEW), must lead and take action to make concrete changes by including sustainability as a core competency in their examinations and certification/licensing requirements. Unfortunately, we have only seen much discourse without much action so far—a ‘déjà vu’ (?).

Moving forward and “on the ground”, we need new methodologies and new ways of approaching accounting education. Many of the key ideas and concepts in accounting need to be thoroughly and fundamentally re-considered when applied to the sustainability arena. In this process, multidisciplinary thinking is the key. We need to build and educate students with strong core competencies in accounting, but it is equally important to critically analyse the role of accounting-related ideas, tools, and information in the bigger picture of the ecosystem we live in and its sustainable development. What are the critical accounting concepts, theories and tools that we need to master? What is the sustainability-related information that we need, how and from where do we get it? How and what do we conceive of value? What is the time-span to be considered? And so on.

In addition to a critical analysis of these pressing questions, we also need the ability to collaborate in multidisciplinary settings and with different actors in society. This should be reflected in how we teach at business schools. Businesses, governments, NGOs and all other societal actors could (should) be involved, and we could experiment with? new kinds of participatory methods. Then again, sustainability could be easily included even in introductory courses through case studies, for instance. As often mentioned, the question is not only about what you teach but how you teach; that is, teaching methods that foster critical analysis, collaborative skills and problem-solving should be in use throughout curriculum.

This blog aims to stimulate debate around how we should teach accounting to advance and improve sustainability. It constitutes a call for action from us – the community of accounting educators – to change our accounting courses and curricula to integrate sustainability issues, a response for the challenge posed for accountants to save the world.

Editor's note: this blog article was originally published on the EAA-ARC blog on 8 August 2019, and is republished here with permission.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

How The World Thinks

By Dr Jack Christian

How The World Thinks is the title of a recent (2018) book by Julian Baggini. It probably overstates what the book has to offer because whilst it is a good introduction to the major cultures of the Northern Hemisphere it has little to say about the indigenous cultures and religions of Africa, Australia and South America.  Nevertheless it is a valuable book offering insights into why other cultures might see things differently, something which is overlooked all too frequently in the Western world.

From a personal perspective it fleshed out my knowledge of Buddhist and Chinese thought, widened my knowledge of Hinduism and Islam and spoke to me of Shintoism for the first time in 50 years.  It made plain the interdependence of religion and philosophy in all these cultures and contrasted this (in my eyes) with the analytic atomism of the Western world which had led to their separation.  That however is not to say that religion and philosophy do not underwrite today’s culture in the Western world, they are just studied separately (again in my eyes).

The book is organized into four parts and a short conclusion.  In the first two parts Baggini discusses the epistemology and ontology of the Islamic world and the various cultures across Asia.  In part three he focusses on the nature of self as seen by these cultures.  (As a follower of deep ecology I found this section particularly fascinating.  Baggini speaks of no-self, relational self and atomised self; I believe it is in our understanding of self that causes us to identify with deep or shallow ecology).  Part four considers how the different cultures live, delving into their different ethical choices and positions.  The concluding section is only 19 pages long, I guess Baggini would prefer the reader to form his/her own conclusions.

Interesting lessons for me included the Japanese attitude to technology as an extension of Nature introduced on p140.  Humans are part of Nature, hence so it their technology.  This interplay of human ingenuity and Nature is discussed at some length and it left me wondering if it left any room at all for Nature to express herself, or whether she was just seen as some sort of poor relative who should welcome the changes being thrust on her.  I need to find out more about this.

Another lesson from a Japanese setting on p298 is the understanding that life is transient and thinking about (focusing on) the now is just as important as making rational (logical) deductions that will affect the future or analyse the past.  This underwrites an understanding that feelings are as important as rational thought and allows us to bypass Hume’s is/ought logical fallacy.  Thus we can take something we observe and allow it to influence how we act (naturalism).

This Western subordination of feeling to logic goes a long way to explaining something Baggini discusses earlier on p79, science for science sake.  Only in the west is science and intellectual development valued for its own sake, elsewhere it exists to serve human flourishing.

It might also explain the search for impartial ethical rules or guidelines such as Kant’s imperative or Bentham’s utilitarianism in the West.  This compares with the focus on virtue that can be found in most of the rest of the world.  Chapters 25 and 21 respectively discuss and exemplify these points in detail.

I suspect this critique of science, and logic and language would chime with many post-modern philosophers although I am not sure where they would stand on human flourishing.

Another lesson, this time from a Chinese setting on p224, is the difference between harmony and unity.  By definition to create harmony there must be more than one input, ie there cannot be unity!  This insight is further developed by Baggini on p315 to illustrate how cultures could mix in what he describes as moral pluralism.  I like this idea but I would talk in terms of agonistic pluralism; I suspect we mean the same thing though, a world where we live with different ideas but find ways make space for each other’s ideas.

However I would also heed his warning on p314 that ideas are part of living ecosytems and must be transplanted carefully or they can wither and die.  This reminded me of his earlier comments on p214 about relational versus atomistic selves and how the Western focus on individuality has lost sight of belonging and community.  This has led, he suggests, to considerable misunderstanding and disenchantment amongst many of its citizens.  Disenchantment that, I feel, has led to an antipathy towards other cultures that are perceived, rightly or wrongly, as receiving more attention.

In the final chapter, on p338, he returns to pluralism as part of a world seen through a multitude of perspectives.  This undoubtedly chimes with my view of the world.  We are all on the Way (Dao) but each of us sees it from a different vantage point.  If we can accept this it may help us build a better world.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Dark Green Religion: A Muse

By Dr Jack Christian

Dark Green Religion:  Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future is a book by Professor Bron Taylor published in 2010.  I found myself re-reading it this week as I was preparing a talk I am giving at my old school in December.  As well as the talk it turned out to be very relevant to my own thoughts on the environment, and biodiversity in particular; the threats to the latter having been in the news quite a lot over the last two weeks.  Further, and more specifically, it was very relevant to a poem I started last week about a walk I had taken in Sherwood Forest.   During this walk I felt a deep spiritual link to nature; the book helped in my reflections on this walk.  In this muse I simply share some of what I see as key points in the book and how I feel about them.

Taylor defines religion very broadly relying on the word’s etymological base which leads to ‘belonging or bound to’, in this case, shared beliefs.  The shared beliefs of dark green religion (DGR), he posits, are the intrinsic value of nature and the interconnectedness of nature (of which humans are a part).  He also offers a framework of analysis between animism and holism on the one hand, and naturalism and spiritualism on the other.  Animism is almost an idiographic approach where value is placed in individual creatures, plants, and even non-living things, holism refers to systems as the object of value, for example Earth or Gaia.  Naturalism sees either of these things as material with their own value and integrity which should be respected and from which we can learn and with which we could even, perhaps learn to communicate with.  Spirituality adds an immaterial element to our relationship with them in the way some people believe we can communicate with God (holism) or Spirits (animism).

Throughout his book he refers to many environmentalists and other scientists, artists and philosophers and notes how difficult is to isolate most of them into just one of these categories.  For example Charles Darwin was a scientist who was meticulous in trying to record his data objectively but at the same time he professed a deep affinity, connectedness even, with animals of all kinds.  Further he was a Christian and believed in God.  From personal experience I would say this was a pretty hard circle to square.

Taylor devotes chapters to DGR in North America; Radical Environmentalism; Surfing Spirituality; Globalization with Predators and Moving Pictures; Globalization in Arts, Sciences and Letters; Terrapolitan Earth Religion and finally DGR and the Planetary Future.  In the first of these he draws on the work of Whitman, Emerson, Muir and Thoreau amongst others.  Here I offer a few quotes from these giants as cited by Taylor.

“This is what you shall do:  love the earth and sun and animals” (Whitman)
“The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable.  I am not alone and unacknowledged.  They nod to me, and I to them” (Emerson)
"Plants are credited with but dim and uncertain sensation, and minerals with positively none at all.  But why may not even a mineral arrangement of matter be endowed with sensation of a kind that we in our blind exclusive perfection can have no manner of communication with?” (Muir)

It seems to me that Walt Whitman is echoing St Francis of Assissi and Emerson and Muir are drawing attention to somethings philosophers, psychologists and even neuro-scientists still argue over – what is the mind, and the mind/matter conundrum.      

Thoreau offered 8 themes that Taylor suggests might be common to a universal DGR:

  1. The value of simple, natural and undomesticated (free) life.
  2. The wisdom of nature
  3. A religion of nature
  4. The laws of nature and justice
  5. An ecocentric moral philosophy
  6. Loyalty to and the interconnectedness of nature
  7. Moral evolution; the necessity of human moral/spiritual/scientific growth
  8. Ambivalence and enigma
I repeat these here to show the complexity of DGR – it isn’t just about loving Nature.

This complexity is emphasised in the chapter on radical environmentalism where he lists various approaches to environmentalism by numerous different authors.  There are philosophers including Baird Callicott and my own hero Arne Naess, environmental historians, native American scholars, scientists and conservationists such as David Ehrenfeld, anarchists and social ecologists, critics of technology, ecofemnists such as Vandana Shiva, anthropologists and ecopsychologists such as Paul Shepherd and Warwick Fox.

Taylor reflects on the work of a variety of individuals including William C Rogers who committed suicide after being arrested for destroying offices and premises belonging to companies that were expanding into areas critical for wildlife protection.  Aware he would be in prison for life he chose suicide and wrote the following:

“Certain human cultures have been waging war against the Earth for millenia.  I chose to fight on the side of the bears, mountain lions, skunks, bats, saguaros, cliff rose and all things wild.  I am just the most recent casualty in that war.  But tonight I have made my jailbreak – I am returning home, to the Earth, to the place of my origins”

Taylor finishes the chapter with a quotation from Paul Watson, founder of Greenpeace.  This starts,

“What we need  if we are to survive is a new story, a new myth, and a new religion.  We need to replace anthropocentrism with biocentrism.  We need to construct a religion that incorporates all species and establishes nature as sacred and deserving of respect.
Christians have denounced this idea as worshipping the creation and not the Creator.  Yet in the name of the Creator they have advocated the destruction of the creation….”

Watson is not the first or the only person to lay the blame for environmental destruction on the Christian faith.  Sadly this antipathy towards (primarily monotheistic) religions, and vice-versa, is a major impediment in protecting the Earth and her inhabitants.  Taylor returns to this in his concluding chapter on the planetary future.

The chapters on globalization note the attention paid to Nature in movies from Bambi to Lion King and Pocahontas (Colours of the Wind is my favourite song of all time).  He also notes the interest generated by people such as Steve Irwin and David Attenborough.  Under the banner of Arts, Sciences and Letters he notes that Ernst Haeckel, the zoologist who coined the word ecology was overtly spiritual about Nature.  He draws on a wide range of writers from David Ehrenfeld, a scientist, to Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple and even Mikhail Gorbachov’s article Nature is My God.  He notes the dark green tone of the 1988 UNESCO publication of Man Belongs to the Earth.  Oh and he does an excellent deconstruction of Richard Dawkins anti-religious arguments en route.

In the penultimate chapter he wonders about the possibility of a worldwide DGR.  In doing so he notes the Marxist and Feuerbach critiques of religion (as a means of obfuscating oppression) and postmodern critiques alert to hegemonic narratives.  However his main focus is on the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002  and the diverse views that were to be found there.

The concluding chapter on DGR and the planetary future starts by noting some relevant factors:
  1. Evolutionary change has precipitated profound changes in most religious thought.
  2. The diversity in DRG thought and the spread of nature spirituality in the last 150 years has, in historical terms, been breathtakingly rapid.
  3. Whilst social change is not normally rapid, it can be; Taylor cites the Copernican revolution as an example.
  4. Social change is often driven by what are perceived as grave threats.
Again Taylor discusses the work of various scholars the most well know of whom is Baird Callicot.  He draws on the Earth Charter, a product of the 2002 World Summit, as a potential guide to a global DGR and he discusses how it might ‘catch on’.  However there is potential opposition noted in the form of established religions and modernist thinkers for whom religion is simply unacceptable.

All in all a serious book.  Of course things have moved on since 2010 and personally I am not at all sure if the world is greener or not.  For those who find these issues interesting Taylor is actually the editor of The Journal for the Study of Nature Religion and Culture which he founded in 2007.

On a personal note, as I said at the start of this muse I felt a spiritual connection whilst walking in Sherwood Forest recently and I am glad to find I am walking with any number of great thinkers from the past.  Like them I am, at times, uncertain of this connection.  The sceptic in me finds more academically acceptable reasons for my thoughts and feelings; for example am I really just reflecting preconceived notions that are the real me in an Heideggerian sense, or am connected to them through some infinite net of relationships such as the Buddhist Net of Indra.  Every day my belief in the latter becomes stronger, simply through my own experiences of the world, but it is hard to shake off the humanist education of the Modern world.      


Friday, 21 September 2018

5th Emerging Scholars Colloquium & 30th International Congress on Social and Environmental Accounting Research: A thank you letter from PhD students and emerging scholars

We, PhD students and emerging scholars, would like to thank the organizing committee of the 5th Emerging Scholars Colloquium and the 30th International Congress on Social and Environmental Accounting Research. It was, for all of us, our first CSEAR UK congress and we are really happy for the fruitful and amazing time spent in St. Andrews.

Our journey started on Sunday 26th August at the Agnes Blackadder Hall. We were welcomed and introduced to each other by some faculty members. We had the chance to get to know each other and talk in an informal manner with some of the faculty members. After our first dinner and the interesting talks we had, we felt more at ease and ready for our presentation at the Colloquium of Monday, 27th.

The next morning, Lori Leigh Davis warmly welcomed us in the Gateway Building providing us with all the information needed and wonderful animal pins for our name tag. The day was organized with a first plenary session and the subsequent parallel sessions of emerging scholars where we all had the honour to present our own research ideas. Afterwards we received lots of feedback in a very constructive way from both faculty members and other emerging scholars.

We would like to thank Jesse Dillard, Sheila Killian, Carlos Larrinaga, Leonardo Rinaldi, Robin Roberts and Andrea Romi for their fruitful insights. Faculty members’ feedback was very valuable for our own research. They gave us new ideas, interesting insights, relevant literature to support our study, possible contributions, etc. Thanks a lot for helping us to further develop our research skills!

The day concluded with a plenary session where faculty members talked about the social impacts of research and how step by step practice can be improved. We can conclude that it has been a challenging but very valuable research day!

A special thank you to Carmen Correa and Giovanna Michelon for the excellent organisation of this day! Thanks to them we had the opportunity to present our own research, share ideas and receive really fruitful hints. Also, a thank you to the AI and Nancy Burnett Eminent Scholar Chair in the Kennet G. Dixon School of Accounting at the University of Central Florida, USA, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), and the Erivan K. Haub Chair in Business and sustainability in the Schulich School of Business at York University, Canada for the support and sponsorship given. It provided us a great opportunity to participate to the conference without concern.

The overall conference gave us the chance to expand our own research insight thanks to the different theoretical backgrounds and broad range of methodological approaches we were immersed into. Moreover, also the different breaks were useful to discuss the presented research topics and to know each other better. We learned that, along with the presentation of projects, a conference is an ideal networking opportunity. All the attendants of the conference are happy to share their own research expertise with colleagues from other universities. The evening as well was a good networking opportunity with the St. Andrews central pub as “home” of our chats. We had, since our first day, the feeling that we were part of the CSEAR family! A family of inspiring people with the same final objective: bettering the world.

Thanks to the whole committee for the excellent organization of this conference! We appreciated as well a lot the coherence between theory and practice. Researches about sustainable development presented during a sustainable conference! ‘No plastic’, recycled paper, fair-trade teas and coffees and some other small details demonstrated how some important values are intrinsic and shared within this community.

Looking forward to see you next year!

Jolien Lievens, Laura Mazzola, Angelina Orlando, Wanisara Suwanmongkhon

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Highlights from the 30th CSEAR International Congress & 5th Emerging Scholars Colloquium

Many thanks to all those who participated and who helped organise the recent events held at St Andrews at the end of last month. The 30th CSEAR International Congress attracted a record number of participants and both it and the preceding Emerging Scholars Colloquium were very successful and enjoyable events.

To give a flavour of what went on, one of CSEAR's own members, Mira Lieberman from the Grantham Centre for Future Sustainability at Sheffield University, blogged her own experiences from the events. These originally appeared on her own 'Sociolinguini Blog', but the links to these posts can be found below.

Many thanks Mira!



ESC - https://wp.me/p83JVx-2aS
Congress Day 1 - https://wp.me/p83JVx-2b0
Congress Day 2 - https://wp.me/p83JVx-2bX
Congress Day 3 - https://wp.me/p83JVx-2cD

Monday, 23 July 2018

Meet the Members: Paweena Orapin & Hongtao Shen


Paweena Orapin, University of Exeter, UK/ Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

My research aims to investigate the role of management control systems (MCS) in relation to the sustainable development in an industrial company in Thailand. Through a case study, the interplay between the formal controls (e.g. written procedures and policies, incentive criteria and budgeting systems) and informal controls (e.g. shared values, beliefs, and cultures) including how to balance/mitigate any tensions amongst competing control devices are insightfully explored. I'm currently the first year PhD student at the University of Exeter, working as a lecturer at the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand. Previously, I have completely two master's degrees in Accounting and Finance (University of Exeter) and International Hotel Management (University of Surrey). I worked in the hospitality industry for a couple of years before getting into the academia.

I do believe that my research would contribute to the knowledge relating to social and environmental accounting because management control systems play a significant role in managing green issues as indicated from the literature. Also, it would be intriguing to explore how accounting is able to enhance the effectiveness of the sustainability practices that organisations adopt, especially in the emerging/developing countries.

I am more than happy to join the CSEAR community. It has been a very constructive platform for social and environmental accounting research for many years. This is my first year with CSEAR and I am really looking forward to attending the 30th CSEAR International Conference at the University of St. Andrews in August 2018.


Dr. Hongtao Shen, Professor of Accounting, Jinan University, China

I attended the CSEAR conference at St. Andrews in 2009, when I met Professor Rob Gray and knew CSEAR for the first time.
Till then, I found I am not in a minority doing research on Social and Environmental Accounting, as most of my colleagues are interested in capital market, earnings management, etc. Then I organized a CSEAR conference at Jinan University, South China in 2012, and introduced CSEAR to more Chinese academics. We gathered again last winter at Polytechnic University, Hong Kong and met old and new CSEAR friends in China again.

I have been working on Social and Environmental Accounting research for more than 10 years and have tens of papers published in top peer-reviewed Chinese academic journals. Total citation number of my published papers has reached above 4000. I am now serving as committee member of Environmental Accounting in Accounting Society of China, and in Editorial board of Accounting Research (in Chinese) and China Journal of Accounting Studies (in English, published by Taylor & Francis). Both of the journals are official research journals of Accounting Society of China. My current research interests include CSR and environmental accounting, and green finance.

I firmly believe that no issue could be more important than social and environmental accounting, both in academic research and in practice, for China. China has achieved unprecedented, sustained economic growth over the past four decades, which has been accompanied by severe environmental deterioration. As the world's second largest economy enters the "new era", China is determined to shift its focus from quantitative to sustainable growth, meaning a more compatible institutional setting for efficient and optimal growth. Beyond solving practical environmental issues, is the country attempts to establish a system that promotes sustainable economy, protects ecosystem, and improve green governance. All these provide unique institutional settings and rich practical cases for academic research. 

I am now responsible for the daily operation of Research Center of Low Carbon Economy for Guangzhou Region (https://lcerc.jnu.edu.cn/), one of the key research centers of humanities and social science sponsored by Guangzhou Municipal Government. CSEAR members are warmly welcome to visit us and be our guest researchers.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Meet the Members: Mira Lieberman & Carol Tilt

Mira Lieberman, PhD Candidate and Grantham Scholar, Sheffield University Management School, UK
First Year in CSEAR

Bibliography Editor for the International Ecolinguistics Association, I hold an MA in Sociocultural Linguistics from Goldsmiths College, University of London in which I investigated the representation of Animal Welfare on Sainsbury's corporate website through a multimodal ecolinguistic analysis.

My interdisciplinary PhD project has a strong activist underlying epistemology that sees environmental accounting as emancipatory both for enacting change in terms of corporate behaviour and reporting, and for stakeholders and society at large. My project, supervised by Professor Jill Atkins and Dr. Robert McKay, deals with the existential threat posed by climate change that drives mass extinction. Social and environmental accounting sees corporations as powerful entities that influence the protection of animals and all living beings on Earth. Accounting for extinction is developed as a tool to help companies change the way they report on their activities and lead to a real change in their operations. Despite the importance of all species to the survival of ecosystems and humans, companies do not disclose information on biodiversity loss in a meaningful, transparent way. Using a combination of linguistic analysis tools, the project examines whether integrated reports produced by corporations reporting on their impact on species aligns with the spoken report given to various stakeholders and whether a new extinction accounting framework can be operationalized in a way that promotes meaningful change in the paradigm of value creation that moves beyond financial value. Additionally, being a scholar at the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures (http://grantham.sheffield.ac.uk/) gives me the opportunity to situate my research within the wider frame of sustainability research and gain first rate insight into ongoing sustainability research from various fields.

The CSEAR community has been very welcoming and I enjoy the discussions on the CSEAR Facebook page. I am very excited to participate in my first International Congress on Social and Environmental Accounting Research in August and meet the CSEAR colleagues!
I am also the writer for my socio- and eco-linguistic blog: sociolinguini.wordpress.com


Professor Carol Tilt, University of South Australia

I became a member of CSEAR as an emerging scholar, too many years ago to name, as it was the only place to find like-minded researchers who were passionate about social and environmental issues, and serious about developing the research community in this area. This is still true today, as it is a place where you can make friends as well as meet colleagues; that is supportive of new and innovative ideas for research; and provides a place (both through events and conferences, and in the virtual world) where collaborations can develop and prosper. 

My work currently focusses on SEA in developing country contexts and the importance of looking in-depth at contextual issues in these economics, rather than simply comparing them to more developed countries and using the same methodology and theories https://jcsr.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40991-016-0003-7.  If we want these countries to improve their environmental performance, we need to understand them better and apply an analytical lens that is relevant to their specific circumstances.  Only then can we determine ways to promote greater responsibility and transparency.

The other area I work in is gender and CSR with my colleague and former PhD student, Dr Kathy Rao: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10551-015-2613-5  and https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/MEDAR-08-2015-0052.

As a senior academic, and the Chair of the Australasian CSEAR conference sub-committee, my focus is on mentoring emerging researchers in the area.  I try to do most of my work with more junior colleagues these days, as they are the future of our discipline. I am committed to helping our emerging scholars to develop their skills and find a place within the SEA community. I am not sure where the future lies for SEA research, but I believe that as our young researchers develop, SEA will develop along with them and continue to mature as a discipline. I hope to see it on the agenda of academics, students, university curricula and the professional agenda, for a long time into the future.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Meet the Members: Giovanna Michelon & Alexandros Parginos

Professor Giovanna Michelon, University of Exeter, UK
Active CSEAR Council Member & Co-organiser of the CSEAR Emerging Scholar Colloquium

I became a member of CSEAR ten years ago, in 2008, and I literally "grew up" in this community. Through CSEAR, I met great mentors, many amazing friends and co-authors, and here I continue to find the support and the encouragement to follow my passion for SEA research.
I have recently become a member of the CSEAR Council, to share my enthusiasm and help our network continue flourishing with new ideas and initiatives. I seek to be a role model for emerging scholars, and support them in developing interesting and challenging research questions, improving their research skills and building up their own special expertise in the area. That is why I am particularly excited to be organising, with Carmen Correa Ruiz, the next CSEAR Emerging Scholar Colloquium!

Since my PhD, my research has focused on three distinct but overlapping and interdependent fields: corporate governance, corporate social responsibility (CSR), and social and environmental reporting. Currently, I am interested in understanding the dynamics of shareholder activism on CSR. There are two aspects I am focusing on. First, I want to disentangle - in the most possibly nuanced ways - who are the various shareholders sponsoring CSR, why they engage in these activities and how the business case argument is used in their narratives. Second, I am interested in understanding how corporations engage with shareholders on social and environmental issues, and perceive and deal with activist shareholders' requests. In this context, international comparison are quite important, as institutional pressures may also affect how companies respond to the demands of various shareholders.

You can read more about my publications and research in progress here: https://sites.google.com/site/giovannamichelon/home


Alexandros Parginos, PhD Student, Essex Business School

It was last year when I firstly met one of the CSEAR members who talked to me about the CSEAR community and shared with me information about its purpose and initiatives. After being introduced to CSEAR for the very first time, it was obvious to me that I had to join and become an active member of this community since my interests are within social and environmental accounting research. After a fruitful year as a member of the CSEAR where I had the chance to present my research at the emerging scholars' colloquium in the UK in August 2017, I knew that I definitely had to renew my membership and continue to be part of this community. Currently, this is my second year as a CSEAR member, hoping for more and more years to come.

Regarding my research, it mainly focuses on companies' corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices, initiatives and strategies, while also examining their social and environmental reporting behaviour in both the pre-and post-crisis era. Special emphasis is placed on companies' internal environment dynamics, how they affect the above two areas and how they are reflected in companies' socio-environmental status and reports. To this end, my research follows an interdisciplinary perspective by adopting and implementing theories from the social sciences such as sociology, psychology and naturally business, in order to meet the needs for more interdisciplinary research projects in accounting. Although mainly qualitative in nature, my research also includes some quantitative elements in terms of research methodology, taking into account that mixed methods may lead to more comprehensive and insightful conclusions on the topic under investigation. 

Thanks to the CSEAR community, I had the chance to receive invaluable feedback on my research ideas, obtain access to useful material, attend presentations and discuss my research with very approachable and well-established academics in the field of social and environmental accounting. All of these aspects contributed towards specifying my research focus and shaping my PhD thesis in a way that would level up my research and contribute original knowledge to the field of social and environmental accounting. Through a constructive dialogue and further co-operation with other CSEAR members, I hope to frame and complete a research project that will further enhance the social and environmental objectives of companies in a more intensive and effective way.

I look forward to this year's CSEAR conference in the UK in August, in which I hope to meet more colleagues who will share the same level of enthusiasm and interest into socio-environmental accounting research as me, and why not a mentor who will be happy to discuss their ideas with me and advise me accordingly.