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!

Congress Day 1 -
Congress Day 2 -
Congress Day 3 -

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 (, 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 ( 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:

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  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:  and

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:

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.  

Monday, 2 July 2018

Meet the Members: Eija Vinnari & David Jackson

Eija Vinnari, Professor, University of Tampere, Finland

If my memory serves me correctly, I joined CSEAR in 2011 in the context of attending the UK conference for the first time. After some years of searching for my place in academia, I was thrilled to have finally found a community of colleagues who had similar concerns about the state of our planet and encouraged me to undertake critical research about these issues.

I have difficulties with disciplinary silos, which means that my work covers a range of fields including of course accounting but also public management and policy, political studies, and environmental/animal ethics. To highlight just one theme, what I consider to be my most significant achievements are recent and ongoing studies related to the promotion of animal rights, conducted in collaboration with various colleagues. Matias Laine and I continue our work on the counter accounts produced and other tactics employed by animal rights activists. Jesse Dillard and I share an interest in extending accountability and other democratic processes to marginalized constituencies, such as non-human beings, through critical dialogic accounting. With my spouse Markus Vinnari, I explore ways of integrating animal rights considerations into the definition of sustainability and associated decision-making. To find out more about these topics and my other research interests, please see my website (in English despite the link text):

It is not an exaggeration to say that I also feel passionate about conceptualization. I am more than happy to engage emerging scholars as well as more senior colleagues in discussions over Actor-Network Theory, agonistic pluralism, discourse analytical frameworks, institutional work, ontological politics and philosophy of science overall. This is because I firmly believe that value rational research stands a much better chance of making the world a better place if its prescriptions emerge from a strong conceptual foundation.

Mr David Jackson, PhD Candidate, University of Edinburgh Business School, UK
First year with CSEAR

Before returning to academia I worked for the Met Office as a forecaster, but I was keen to change career paths to think about how I could reduce the impact of climate change rather than just predicting it.  

I am part of the Centre for Business and Climate Change and my research aims to help reduce carbon emissions throughout the construction industry, particularly on large infrastructure projects.  This will be done through the development of an open-sourced carbon accounting tool that will identify carbon hotspots and allow decision makers to make informed decisions to reduce carbon emissions on their projects.

As well as the development of the tool and exploring the most appropriate carbon accounting methods to use, I am keen to research the social barriers that stand in the way of the tool's adoption in the industry, and carbon management more generally. I will also explore the relationships between contractors and their supply chains, looking at how carbon reduction can be used to improve relationships and increase efficiency.

This research is important as whether directly or indirectly, the infrastructure sector is responsible for over 50% of the UK's carbon emissions.  If the UK is serious about meeting the targets set under the 2008 Climate Change Act then carbon reductions in this area are certainly needed.

Social and environmental accounting brings new depth to research in this area. Within the construction industry, much of the research on carbon accounting focusses on the methods used without understanding how these tools will be used within organisations. I feel that understanding the social reservations that organisations have towards carbon accounting will enable us to help overcome these challenges and change the way the industry works.

I am currently supervised by Dr. Matthew Brander and Dr. Kathi Keasehage (both University of Edinburgh) but I am always open to new ideas, so please get in touch if you would like any more information, or have any suggestions for my research going forward.

Looking forward to hopefully meeting you in St Andrews in August!

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Alternative Accountabilities and Inclusive Mapping: Lessons from The Nigerian Oil Spill Monitor

By Mercy Denedo, Ian Thomson and Akira Yonekura

In our paper titled “Accountability, maps and inter-generational equity: evaluating the Nigerian Oil Spill Monitor” published in Public Money and Management 38(5), 355-365, we explored the accountability expected of Public Sector Organisations (PSOs) assigned the responsibility of protecting the natural environment, intergenerational and intra-generational equity. If PSOs are not held accountable for the social consequences of their activities, then this might negatively affect the distribution of social, economic and environmental rights, risks and resources between present and future generations. Our central theme is whether enhanced accountability will drive changes in organisational practices associated with more sustainable ways of living. This paper evaluates the Nigerian Oil Spill Monitor (OSM), an innovative public sector accounting sustainability system created by a coalition of campaigning NGOs and the Nigerian National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) by exploring the OSM system along with interview evidence conducted with different stakeholders in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Unusually for accounting-sustainability hybrids which are practices used to make visible and thinkable the sustainable governance of economic, ecological and social life, the OSM is adapted from public participation geographic information system (PPGIS).

PPGIS comprises techniques that address the absence of information on the social and environmental impact of the action of others. PPGIS use a combination of community engagement practises and geographic information system (GIS) to facilitate public participation in policy making, problematisation of the actions of others, supporting civic society groups, and reforming governance systems (Carver et al., 2001; Ramirez-Gomez et al., 2017). PPGIS also incorporates activist practises such as counter mapping or maptivism and is often an integral part of citizen science programmes. From the perspective of accounting hybridisation, there are a number of common attributes associated with PPGIS. These include making invisible data visible, connecting high level concepts with specific geographic localities, presenting information from different sources, co-production, filling critical information gaps, stakeholder inclusion, and visualising complex relationships for intra-generational engagement and intergenerational equity (Brown et al., 2012). PPGIS have also been observed as increasing the power of communities to demand greater accountability from institutions whose actions affect their ability to live sustainably (see also here and here). Many of these attributes are shared with sustainable accounting and sustainable governance offering an alternative pathway to accounting hybridisation. In this paper, we explored the OSM’s effectiveness in terms of enhanced accountability, stakeholder engagement and improved regulatory practices in preventing, stopping and remediating oil spills in the Niger Delta.

Unsustainable activities of oil companies, corruption, third party interference and sabotage in conjunction with ineffective regulators have led to Niger Delta being ranked as one of the worst petroleum damaged ecosystems in the world. The OSM was designed to improve the governance and accountability associated with oil pollution provides open access to detailed accounts of the cause, timing, location, quantity of pollutant, remediation programmes related to all oil spills. The OSM makes visible oil spill data, how oil corporations are fulfilling their legal duties, as well as, the impact of third party interference. The OSM’s origin lie in activist campaigns against the actions of oil corporations and regulators using a range of tactics including PPGIS. Following years of campaigning against the oil spill regulatory regime, corporate practices and third party sabotage; the OSM was developed by a coalition of NGOs in partnership with NOSDRA as a solution to the lack of reliable information from corporations and NOSDRA. The OSM provides real-time information on the management of oil spills measured against NOSDRA’s statutory responsibilities. The OSM was intended to enable government agencies, oil corporations, civil society groups and communities’ members to co-produce accounts of oil-spillage, engage and share critical information.

Integrating sustainable development into public sector accountability and sustainable governance systems is deemed necessary to create social, economic, cultural, political and environmental wellbeing for present and future generations. Protecting the natural environment is linked to protecting intra-generational and inter-generational equity, particularly when damage to the natural environment persists overtime. Aligning public service accountability practices with sustainable development is critical for the governance of others to achieve an equitable redistribution of costs, risk, harm, resources and benefits across generations.

Sustainable governance systems are concerned with managing the social, economic and environmental risks emerging from unsustainable practices. Accounting possesses a powerful set of practices that can play a number of important roles in sustainable governance systems, in particular rendering visible and governable the risks of unsustainability. Accounting can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of those institutions responsible for sustainable governance. At an operational level, accounts of actual or potential harm through regulatory breaches can trigger corrective actions or policy interventions by PSOs. Managing social, economic and environmental sustainability across generations requires accounts to challenge institutions to fully discharge their responsibilities by ensuring effective risk management policies and stakeholder engagement. Given the importance of PSOs to sustainable governance, we argue that PSOs should integrate relevant aspects of sustainable development into their accounting and accountability systems. The absence of effective accounting-sustainability systems in PSOs, including environmental regulators, might limit the attainment of inter-generational equity. Accountability practices need to be embedded within robust governance systems in order to change policies or practices to protect the environment and human rights in the context of sustainable wealth creation and its distribution across generations. Within the Niger Delta, whether the dramatically improved disclosures of oil spillage through the OSM system will lead to future reforms of the social, economic and environmental governance of the oil sector remains an open question to be answered by practitioners, oil corporations and the regulatory agencies.

Brown, G., Montag, J. M. and Lyon, K. (2012). Public participation GIS: a method for identifying ecosystem services. Society & Natural Resources, 25(7), 633-651.

Carver, S., Evans, A., Kingston, R. and Turton, I. (2001). Public participation, GIS, and cyberdemocracy: evaluating on-line spatial decision support systems. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 28, 907-921.

Denedo, M., Thomson, I. and Yonekura, A. (2018). Accountability, maps and inter-generational equity: evaluating the Nigerian Oil Spill Monitor. Public Money and Management, 38(5), 355-364.

Ramirez-Gomez, S. O. I., Verweij, P., Best, L., van Kanten, R., Rambaldi, G. and Zagt, R. (2017). Participatory 3D modelling as a socially engaging and user-useful approach in ecosystem service assessments among marginalised communities. Applied Geography, 83, 63-77.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Meet the Members: Andrea Romi & Mohit Dar

Dr. Andrea Romi, Associate Professor, Texas Tech University, USA

I remember vividly the moment I was introduced to the CSEAR family. I was a PhD student at the University of Arkansas and Robin Roberts interviewed for our department chair position. I spoke with him about my research interests, which included "environmental accounting" at the time, and he was one of the very first people who responded positively and supportively to this declaration. It was as that time he discussed CSEAR. Just a brief time later, I was presenting a paper on environmental sanction disclosures in France and I met Charles Cho. He too was enthusiastic and shared with me information about CSEAR. The combination of these encounters culminated in my very first CSEAR conference in Montreal, Canada, in the summer of 2008. I know this date well because it was barely a week after my daughter, Seda, was born and she attended the conference with me and my partner. Charles still reminds me that she is likely the youngest person ever to attend a CSEAR conference. I met so many people and I have been attending conferences ever since. I have also published papers with CSEAR members/friends, including Den Patten and Giovanna Michelon, and hope to someday work with many others. I haven't always felt like I fit in the CSEAR community, given I am situated between two different research worlds, geographically and culturally, but CSEAR members have been supportive, have pushed me to expand my perceptions, and have created a space for me to become a better researcher.

I have somewhat shifted my research methodologies and areas of interest as of late. With a strictly mainstream education in the US, much of what I have experienced in CSEAR has motivated me to educate myself in new theories and methodologies. After clearing my plate of some older projects, my new focus is on, what I consider, more unique topics, from more interesting vantage points. One such project is my paper on the use of accounting in the U.S. as the cannabis industry transitions from the black to the gray market. This paper is currently under R&R at Contemporary Accounting Research and I will be presenting it this summer at various CSEAR conferences for feedback. I am also working on a paper about the MeToo/Time's Up movement and how feminist theory might inform or be informed by the accountability within the movement. We have had the distinct opportunity to meet with movement founders, fund administrators, policy-makers, those individuals effected by sexual harassment in the workplace, without the power or economic capacity to fight for themselves, etc. Moving forward, I would like to develop the skills necessary to better articulate the critical aspects of my research. For me, research is a continual learning, always shifting, never mastered craft. I feel that social accounting research is important; the only thing I can do is draw attention to some of the world's problems, call out injustice when I see it, and offer some plausible solutions with the limited skills set I possess.

Mohit Dar, PhD Student, Aston Business School, UK

I returned to Aston University in October 2017 to take up a full-time PhD, researching social accounting and accountability practices in UK housing associations. It has been a full circle for me as my first degree, BSc (Hons) in Management was from Aston. In between, whilst working (I'm qualified ACA and ACCA), I completed the Executive MBA from The University of Birmingham and MSc in Accounting from The University of South Wales.

As a "technical" numbers expert, I held senior finance appointments in both private and public sectors. In recent years my passion and focus has been social housing and I was delighted when my housing paper was published in an academic journal in 2013 . It was based on my MSc dissertation, which was a case study in a housing association.

I believe in lifelong learning and PhD allows me to stretch further in accounting. It explores an interesting field, social accounting, which is beyond "technical" external and regulatory reporting. So, the plan is to make a significant contribution along with impact in this area. I'm also on the Board of Cymorth Cymru  which allows me to contribute and keep in touch with practitioners in social housing.

My mentors are Professor Ataur Belal (first supervisor) and Dr Florian Gebreiter (second supervisor) and both have been very supportive and helpful.  Advice and ideas from SEA experts outside my supervisory team is always welcome. 

I'm truly delighted to be part of the CSEAR community, where I hope to meet and make friends with fellow SEA researchers. I look forward to meeting my "new family" at the CSEAR conference in August 2018!

Monday, 18 June 2018

Meet the Members: Madlen Sobkowiak & Lee Parker

Madlen Sobkowiak, PhD Student, University of Birmingham

I am currently in my second year of PhD research at the University of Birmingham, looking at biodiversity accounting and in particular national biodiversity indicators. Before starting my PhD I did my MSc in International Accounting and Finance also at the Birmingham Business School, after graduating with a BSc in Business Administration from the Technical University of Freiberg in Germany.

My current research focuses on the construction of national biodiversity indicators within the public sector, especially the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and how the are being used in decision and policy making.

I was able to attend last years CSEAR conference thanks to a CIMA bursary and had the opportunity to present my work at last years CSEAR Emerging Scholars Colloquium. This was really valuable in terms of feedback as well as getting to know other PhD students as well as academics in SEA. It was great meeting all of you at last years conference and to get an impression of all the different work going on within the CSEAR community. I am really looking forward to the next CSEAR conference in August and hopefully I will have the chance to present at this years ESC as well. In addition, I received a "Universitas 21" scholarship to visit the University of British Columbia for two months last September and October, which was a great opportunity to see different interdisciplinary research around the issues of sustainability and biodiversity.

I am lucky that with my two supervisors, Ian Thomson and Tom Cuckston, I have found two highly knowledgeable academics to support me during my PhD. They have both been excellent mentors, but I would be delighted to connect with other academics working in this area.

Lee Parker, Distinguished Professor, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia
Research Professor, Glasgow University, Scotland
Honorary Fellow & Distinguished Expert Advisor CSEAR

I have been involved in CSEAR since its earliest days in the early 1990s, having been associated with Rob Gray, James Guthrie, Reg Matthews and David Owen (among others) right at the beginnings of the social and environmental accounting research movement to build an international research literature and community of scholars in this field. In 1976 my first publication on social accounting appeared in the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland magazine The Accountant's Magazine, titled "Social Accounting - Don't Wait For It". To see the field and its community of scholars grow into today's cohort, and to see CSEAR and all its associated groups around the globe brings me considerable satisfaction. The 2018 thirtieth anniversary conference at St Andrews stands as a hallmark of the movement's ongoing development.

Unlike some social and environmental research colleagues, my research spans not only the social and environmental fields, but includes corporate governance, strategic management, professionalisation, accounting and management history (and more). However my published social and environmental research includes over 20 research journal papers (attracting Google Scholar citations currently exceeding 5000) extending from the mid-1980s to today. They have covered social reporting, professional ethics, environmental cost management, social and environmental research developments, corporate social accountability history, and social and environmental management and accountability in the international hotel industry. 

It is self-evident that the social and environmental accounting research field is a matter of priority for global humanity and ecology. Yet so many of our accounting research community members and journals have still not recognised the challenges and important of these issues despite the regular attention they now attract across media, governments and communities. We also see the entrance to this research field of some new researchers who are unacquainted with decades of prior research produced by the CSEAR community and risk repeating well-worn foci and themes that previously focussed purely on stockholder interests and the business case. WE have moved on from such narrow preoccupations to embrace the wider issues and stakeholders upon which our field should rightly focus. As a research community we have both significant opportunities and challenges to embrace qualitative engaged research approaches; identify strategic, historical, and emerging industry areas; return to engage with policy issues and debates; refresh our attention to social as well as environmental responsibility; and present and promote our work across specialist, interdisciplinary and general conferences and journals. The greatest challenge remains one of avoiding being locked into a ghetto of self-referential conversations between ourselves within our research conferences and literature. If we do that, we become voices lost in the wilderness. I am reminded of a conversation I had with the late Professor Reg Matthews, one of the founders of our field. When asked why he was choosing to take one more academic position beyond what might have been a logical retirement point, he replied "because I want one more shot at making a difference!" 

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Meet the Members: Martin Freedman & Aurélia Heurteux

Professor Martin Freedman, Towson University, USA

In 1978 when I returned to the US after 2 years on a kibbutz in Israel I started to look for an academic job. When I interviewed at SUNY Binghamton (now Binghamton University) Bikki Jaggi said he would be happy to do research with me on social accounting. Although Bikki left Binghamton a few years later, we managed to collaborate until last year when he retired. With Bikki and with A.J. Stagliano (with whom I am still collaborating), I found colleagues willing to do research in this nascent field. However, when we were looking for outlets for our earlier work, there seemed to be no accounting journals that believed that social accounting was really accounting.  Eventually a few new accounting journals more devoted to social/environmental accounting were created and eventually CSEAR was formed. Rob asked me if I would like to join and he made me one of the North American representatives. I was excited that a community of scholars focusing on social and environmental research existed and that I was asked to be a member.

The research that I have done with Bikki, Stag, and a number of other colleagues has focused mainly on social and environmental disclosure. Although many of the earlier papers were concerned with occupational health (working with asbestos or cotton dust), most of our publications are about pollution (air, water, toxic wastes, and climate change). We began with the hypothesis that firms that were best at curbing pollution in a given industry do best economically. No one to our knowledge has ever disproved the hypothesis.

I have attended all the CSEAR North American meetings and have found them to be stimulating affairs. When I was on sabbatical a few years ago, Jan Bebbington (and Rob) organized a workshop for me to present some findings concerning climate change at St. Andrews, and they both treated my wife and I royally. I plan to attend the annual meeting in the next few years.

Our role as researchers is to help to make the world a better place for its inhabitants. Studying methods to reduce pollution, improving working conditions, eliminating discrimination at the workplace, and forcing corporations to be good citizens are endeavors that I feel are worthwhile to study. I would be happy to mentor people who focus on these issues and are not hung up on ideology. Ideological battles are important for understanding the issues, but in my mind, they seem to slow the process of making a healthier planet.

Miss Aurélia Heurteux, PhD Candidate, Nice-Côte d'Azur University
Second Year in CSEAR

I became a CSEAR member last year before my participation in the CSEAR France 2017 Conference held at Toulouse Business School, where I met mentors and researchers from several countries. My research interest includes Sustainable Development, Accountability and Public Policy. So it is important for me to be part of different associations.

The last decade in particular has seen sustainability come of age. Many companies, states and countries now recognise sustainability to be strongly linked to business growth and sustainable development still a hot topic. For me, it was interesting to compare the different methods of local authorities to integrate Sustainable Development in management tools. Some are more advanced than others. It is my last year of thesis but I want to continue my research in this area to study political behavior or to create management tools adapted to Public Sector.

Sustainable Development and global performance are a logical evolution for the transparency of local authorities. Citizens have become much more aware of its issues and local authorities must be accountable to follow all these new expectations. So research in social and environmental accounting fields are important.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Meet the Members: Rob Gray

Professor Rob Gray, Emeritus Professor, University of St Andrews
Founder of CSEAR

What circumstances brought you to start CSEAR?  

Beware of revisionist histories! Trying to develop "social accounting" (whatever that was) in the 1970s and 1980s was a very lonely enterprise until I met Dave Owen, Keith Maunders, Lee Parker, James Guthrie and Reg Mathews and suddenly we were a gang - which is much more fun.  By 1990 we were beginning to be appointed to chairs and we realised we could do more. For me, the turning point was 2 Australian academics turning up in my office in Dundee complaining about being lonely and pretty beaten up: introducing them to each other and trying to scrape a bit of money together to set up a network seemed like an inevitable next step. The first Summer School funded by the BAA was a week long and a truly extraordinary experience for everybody who needed to come out as a social accountant!  People simply refused to go home at the end of the week - I have never experienced anything like it. We decided to experiment to see if there was an appetite for another summer school and we set up a (temporary?) network to support delegates….. hello CSEAR: which has been vastly more successful than we could have ever anticipated.

Why do you think it is an important organisation? 

Ken McPhail called CSEAR a "community of faith" and George Harte referred to it as the "place where we recruit guerrillas in the social and environmental wars". It is a tolerant and safe place where ideas can be explored with others who think similarly… but it must not become an echo chamber/nursery that folk cannot leave. The world in general and the academic world in particular are arguably as malevolent as they ever were and CSEAR would be a failure if it didn't match its nurture with the encouragement to tackle real issues.

What publication (of yours) are you most proud of, why?

Always an amusing question. I guess Corporate Social Reporting (1987) with Dave Owen (and Keith Maunders) because we actually did it! Put together a semi-coherent field that could be taught and could be shown to have purpose. Most publications represent something of a personal achievement of one sort or another and I have been proud of many of them - because they at least advanced what I thought of as my understanding of the subject and lots of them were really hard! If I am allowed two then I suppose I would choose {Gray Rob (2006) "Trustworthy plc" Green Futures  March/April p45} because it is very short, still makes me laugh and kind of says all I have to say!

What work are you presently interested in?

Mostly, in the sense in which the question is probably intended, I am interested where the next burst of outrage and innovation is going to come from. I remain involved in work with a few colleagues; I am enjoying writing the odd speculative chapter for the more wacky books; and I continue to try and read around (what I suppose we might summarise as) cognitive dissonance. I remain obsessed by the puzzlement as to how intelligent and informed people with no particular obvious self-interest can continue to ignore the very real possibility that their/our/my work is entirely missing the point and makes fiddling whilst Rome burns seem focused and pro-active. I have enjoyed looking into the possibilities offered by the extinction of humanity!

Where do you see the social and environmental accounting research will grow to in the future? 

I am not sure I currently have any particular views on that. I think it would be sad if we let normal science - which is a really important theme of course but inevitably immanent - come to dominate work which was explicitly grubby, painful, which dealt with dead animals and starving babies, which drew from the anguish of intolerance and refused to take the myths of international financial capitalism for granted.