Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Behind the Brands

The following website is well worth a visit …

Oxfam have developed an innovative website that creates the possibility of linking brands (produced by the ten largest food companies) with information (or the lack thereof) on the social and environmental conditions under which these products are produced.  In particular, the evaluation presented focuses on issues of: land tenure; treatment of women workers; farmer relationships; workers in general; climate change issues; transparency and sensitivity to water concerns.  This site, therefore, creates an engaging resource for teaching on a wide array of topics such as: counter accounts and/or shadow accounts; sustainable consumption issues; product lifecycle assessment; multi-criteria analysis of sustainable development … and many other topics.  It is especially engaging as the focus on brands means that the links between (students – and our) personal choices and impacts are drawn closer.  Likewise (and with every evaluation technology), deconstructing how this account of brands is made up is valuable in itself.  If you have not seen it, take a look.

Jan Bebbington and Shona Russell

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Reflections on CSEAR 2013

Wow! What a busy few days. Only after a long weekend of reading, coffee and running have I managed to take time to reflect on last week’s CSEAR Conference in St Andrews.

The Gateway Building became the hub for around 110 people from around the world last week to discuss all manner of topics and papers linked to social and environmental accounting. John Roberts’ plenary ‘Between Corporate and Political Accountability: The case of the Australian Resource Super Tax Profits’ discussed globalisation, cosmopolitanism and asked ‘what does it mean to be a nation state?’

John’s use of adverts during his plenary was especially entertaining and fascinating. The announcement in 2010 of a 'super tax' on mining profits by the Australian government prompted an extraordinary lobbying campaign, firstly by the mining industry, and, in response, by a coalition of progressive campaigners and trade unions. The satire deployed by the latter through a number of parody adverts is especially worth a look - see below.

The plenary also prompted further consideration of what ‘accounts’ can be – a topic that continued to be discussed in relation to papers on accounting for nature (Jack Christian) and external accounting and activism (Colin Dey, Ian Thomson and myself).

In a contrast to previous years, we had a book launch and panel discussion associated with Capitalism, Corporations and the Social Contract: A Critique of Stakeholder Theory by Sam Mansell (University of St Andrews); discussants sessions where four particular papers were presented, posters and a couple of futures workshops discussing both the future of the SEA field and CSEAR future(s).

The workshops were based in part on a survey of the CSEAR community, which provided a very valuable snapshot of the views of CSEAR members. Further details of the survey will be made available soon via the CSEAR website, but in the meantime, part of the survey asked respondents what they thought CSEAR's vision, mission and values should be, and the latter is presented below as a word cloud:

The 2.5 days of the conference was followed by ‘Rob’s day’, celebrating the intellectual contribution of Professor Rob Gray to the field. The audience were treated to a host of wonderful and very funny presentations by Professors David Owen, Lee Parker, Richard Laughlin and Jane Broadbent.

The day also featured a quiz put together by Clemence Rannou, Delphine Gibassier and Alex Stanley, called 'Know Your Rob'. For those of you who missed the event - a copy of the quiz can be downloaded here. Only one person managed to get all the questions correct on the day - the highly competitive Dave Owen!

All in all, a packed four days with lots of stimulating conversation, a fair bit of banter and amazingly bathed in Scottish sunshine.

Thank you to everyone for participating and contributing ideas and thoughts via spoken word, post-it note or survey response. Each contribution informs and shapes ideas going forward concerning CSEAR(s) activities for the next year. Many volunteers have signed up to be part of organising webinars, hosting events and building networks in places around the world. This demonstrates the capabilities and generosity of the CSEAR community to continue to mobilise SEA scholarship in new and exciting directions.

This blog is available to communicate ideas, stimulate debate, disseminate research findings, or announce events. Please contact us if you’d like to contribute to the blog. We look forward to hearing from you.

Colin Dey and Shona Russell (September 2013)