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!" 

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