Friday, 6 October 2017

A thank you letter and report from the 4th CSEAR Emerging Scholars Colloquium, August 2017

By Ph.D students and emerging scholars attending the CSEAR Emerging Scholars Colloquium, August 2017

After a great experience at the 4th Emerging Scholars Colloquium (ESC) and 29th Centre for Social and Environmental Accounting Research (CSEAR) conference, some of us Ph.D students and emerging scholars would like to thank the organisers for the great opportunity they provided us with this August in St. Andrews. With this letter, we also would like to give some advice to prospective emerging scholars, as well as general comments about CSEAR and ESC UK 2017, with the underlying hope of helping others interested in attending over the coming years.

The annual CSEAR conference and ESC at St. Andrews University, Scotland, together provide a great opportunity for young scholars to present their work at an early stage and receive feedback from within the community. This is not only due to the great location Saint Andrews offers, but also because the event provides a perfect networking opportunity to interact with the faculty members that kindly host us.

The ESC began on the 28th of August, 2017 and was followed by attendance at the main conference. Forty minutes were reserved for each emerging delegate to present her/his work and collect feedback from those more experienced in the field. During CSEAR ESC 2017, the Ph.D students and emerging scholars totalled 25 and came from all over the world. For example, universities such as Stockholm School of Economics, Bristol University, the University of Leicester, the University of Dundee, the University of Burgos, Paris Dauphine, PLS Research University, Bergamo University, the University of Central Florida and Auckland University of Technology were represented, among others.

Delegates were divided into sessions that dealt with different themes and research areas. Moreover, various theoretical backgrounds and diverse methodological approaches were presented by the emerging scholars, and thereafter discussed by faculty members with different research profiles. Professors such as Charles Cho (York University), Carmen Correa (Universidad Pablo de Olavide de Sevilla), Jesse Dillard (Portland State University), Matias Laine (University of Tampere), Giovanna Michelon (Exter University), Den Patten (Illinois State University), Michelle Rodrigue (Université Laval) and Helen Tregidga (Royal Holloway, University of London) acted as the discussants.

The evening before the ESC began, we had the possibility of meeting one another during dinner at Agnes Blackadder Hall. There, some of the faculty members welcomed us, as well as introduced us to each other, allowing us to feel more at ease. Getting to know our colleagues is key for the CSEAR community and this is achieved not only during the plenary sessions in an academic capacity, but also during the evenings’ social events at the infamous pub ‘The Central Bar’ which involved relation-building in addition to some deeper academic discussions.

In our opinion, the ESC and CSEAR were successes, and a special thanks goes to those who organised the conference, as well as the faculty members who welcomed us. Moreover, we are extremely grateful to the brilliant researchers within the community for their continued work and inspiration both more generally, but also specifically when participating in the discussions. With this letter, we want to show how fruitful this 4th ESC has been for us, and we hope to see you again next year… a little older and a little wiser, and perhaps with a little more emerging scholars attending.

Thank you for welcoming us to your community of social and environmental accountability research.

Ph.D. Students: 
Jamiu, Muhammad, Clarence, Rebecca, Iris, Emilia, Zhifeng, Joselyne, Anees, Leanne, Teng, John, Melita, Osai, Iredele, Alexandros, Nadra, Enrique, Shamrin, Juliette, Chaoyuan, Hyemi, Madlen, Di, Rijadh, Jingjing, David, Ahmad, Sisi.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Teaching Integrated Reporting: A French Experiment

By Professor Delphine Gibassier, Toulouse Business School

When I started teaching (during my PhD and after), the topic of teaching Social and Environmental Accounting related topics, such as environmental accounting, carbon accounting or integrated reporting was not easy to bring to (French) business schools. I was told business companies did not care, or that students could at most get “an introduction” because the topic was not on the chartered accountancy exam. While I was able to teach an optional course in carbon accounting in 2013 thanks to a SEA research-focused colleague, the door remained closed elsewhere.

Integrated reporting, however, raised the interest of my accounting colleagues. For some reason, it was easier to see through the connection between accounting and sustainability thanks to this new kind of reporting. 

In my institution, I introduced the topic through a conference to our accounting major students in 2014, with Carol Adams and Lisa French (from IIRC). After this introduction, I first taught integrated reporting during a 6-hour class in 2015. However, the topic was too complex to master in this short amount of time, and I was not pleased with the outcome. In 2016, there was the option to make a new 30-hour course, in English, in our department. I proposed to develop a new course on integrated reporting, and it was accepted. I proposed to Carol Adams teaching half of the class. She helped me developed the syllabus and brought her experience in building integrated reports in practice to the class. It was great to be able to gather both our experiences for the students to be close to practice. 

When I thought about how to best introduce a topic that is still “in the making”, with little practice, I decided to develop new teaching methods. First, I wanted to develop critical thinking. I launched a twitter challenge. Students had to look for 10 articles, view points etc. for and against integrated reporting. Then they had to tweet the link with # so that everyone would be able to look for the documents. After collecting the links from all the students, they had to write an essay, in groups, on what were the positive elements of the integrated reporting trend and what could be critiqued.

Second, I needed them to master key concepts of integrated report. For this, I used an existing case study (DBS: Journey to Integrated Reporting), and built another one on “materiality”.

Third, I decided to focus on the key accounting concept in integrated reports: “the capitals”. Since there is not “best practice” yet and that it is an “ongoing” practice, I decided to built a database of existing integrated reports. Instead of finding around 300 worldwide, I went to develop a 1300+integrated reports database. From this database, I extracted around 50 reports on “business models” (with capitals), natural capital, human/intellectual/social capitals, as well as a few that reported using stakeholder voices as focus. By groups, students had to develop their own analytical grid to decide what were the “best” integrated reports on “natural capital” for example, according to them. During the teaching hours, we discussed together what were the key criteria. They wrote a first presentation after the 30-hour seminar, a second version after 3 weeks, and a final version after another 2 weeks.

Example of analytical grids used:

Group 1
Group 2
Group 3
Material issues
Standard KPIs (for each capital)
Transparency and honesty: it's not only about identify strengths but also weaknesses
Targets (to challenge and motivate management and allow comparison)
Actions: Are we going to improve our weaknesses? Are we going to develop our
strengths? How?
Comparability (evolution past/today)
Key content
Value chain

All in all, the teaching was very much based on developing students’ own understanding of integrated reporting, while still mastering key concepts behind the idea of integrated reports. Moreover, it was a subtle way to introduce the fact that value is multifaceted, and that accounting has to develop other ways of accounting for it. Finally, students questioned the notion of “accountability” that is reported in integrated reports, looking at stakeholders to which the companies were “talking”, the use of assurance, materiality, and the absence of reporting on potential negative events.

Below some resources for teaching IR to your class.

Resources for teaching Integrated Reporting

Online resources:
Carol Adams’ blog: (over 56 resources on IR)

Elaine Cohen’s blog:

Sustainable Brands Reporting 3.0 series:
Reporting 3.0’s Reporting Blueprint: Triggering a Regenerative, Inclusive & Open Economy
How to Transform Today’s ‘Senseless’ ESG Data into Tomorrow’s Actionable Knowledge
Purpose + Context = Connectedness
Integration (Data Blueprint)
Definition of Overall Success (Reporting Blueprint)
Contextualization (Data Blueprint)
Securing Scalability (Reporting Blueprint)
Activation & Acceleration (Data Blueprint)

Databases with IR reports:
GRI (choose “integrated reports” to filter)


Case Studies:
2/ Danone, will be published at Ivey Publishing (available end of 2018, write me an email if you would like to be informed)

Our resources: