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.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Is Impact Assessment the New Black? And if so… Should we teach it?

By Dr Diane-Laure Arjaliès, Assistant Professor, Ivey Business School, Western University, Canada

Discovering the buzz around impact assessment is usually a source of anxiety for any social and environmental accountant who tries to catch up with the field. What? A new standard? I have not yet finished reading the last update of the GRI I am teaching next week, not even started to look at this report on natural capital (which I planned to read in the plane, but which got somehow stuck in my luggage) and I am still working on this CSEAR blog on integrated reporting I promised, already 18 months ago. So, a new standard?  Thank you, but no, thank you.

But impact assessment is relentless. Newsletter, after newsletter, report, after report, it never stops. And comes the day when zeroing in Facebook, you eventually click on "Is Impact Assessment the New Black?" You secretly hope that you will finally get a sense of what all this is about, and be reassured that indeed, you definitely do not need to spend time on it. At this moment, your anxiety reaches its peak: there is no standard.

Impact assessment is everywhere. The United Nations, B-Corporations, non-for-profits, investors: all want to show that they are making a difference. Governments obsessed with transparency are no exception. In a market-driven world, infused with dreams of open democracy nurtured by big data, if money gets used it has to trigger change, on the ground. What change means, what ground comprises, and how both relate to each other, however, are pretty unclear. What matters is the ability of an organization to demonstrate an impact, of some sort, on some people, possibly with some numbers.

When faced with this horrendous discovery, the social and environmental accountant often envisions three options. The first one, rooted in a somehow pessimistic Foucauldian approach to life, leads you to conclude that "those political numbers are only here to increase the power of finance in our society - damned." Nurtured by the despair that years of academic rejections and pointless A papers published by colleagues who did not deserve them (ours are always fair and useful of course), you send an email to your old friend, asking "Do you do something about impact assessment? Just wondering."

Since you care about the planet and its inhabitants - otherwise you would not do this job, you are actually already envisioning the second option, "maybe I should have a look after all, United Nations, that's something." It is 4 pm, you do not have time to start something big anyway, so you eventually do it: You open the folder "To Read" in your mailbox. The folder where you put all these newsletters and mails sent by colleagues you plan to look at, but that you have never read: Yes, this folder. And as you are skimming the reports, the third option slowly appears: "is impact assessment a way for people to think about what they do and what they want, instead of stupidly applying frameworks?"

This is it: you have just opened Pandora's box! You realize that impact assessment is not completely different, not yet quite the same, as social and environmental accounting. Impact assessment appears to you as a sort of post-modern form of accounting, that would have digested ANT and institutional theory, to be able to acknowledge that "yes, global warming is a fact, but no, financial performance does not exist 'out there.'" As any form of accounting you may think? Yes, but this time, it's official. No need to pretend that measures are objective or that you could shape any reality you want, just because metrics are performative. Impact assessment does not look for neutrality or utopia, but for real change, whatever real means, whatever change is.

Now, you are quite convinced: impact assessment seems interesting, at least from an intellectual perspective. Yet you wonder: "is it reasonable to teach a topic for which there is no standard, a myriad of values, many controversies and infinite decisions to make?" You hesitate: of course, you believe that your job is to teach students to be critical and you would like to do it. But you also think about the CPA curriculum, this new research project and those bad evaluations you will receive if students realize that the world is not rational and fair value is not really fair. You love challenges, but not up to that point.

Good news! Someone has already done it and will happily share her teaching material with colleagues genuinely interested in trying new things. A brand-new course on impact assessment, based on field work and case study methods, for which almost everything is available: syllabus, teaching notes, cases studies, field work guidelines, and list of available resources.

The file can be downloaded here.

Students have done a fantastic job, working with farms, Syrian refugee programs, social enterprises, investment funds and indigenous reserves. And you know what? You can give students and organizations the credit they deserve. Everybody can think, when they are allowed to: Yes, even in business schools; Yes, even in North America.

Now, you can close this blog, and go back to work.

For further information, do not hesitate to contact Diane-Laure Arjaliès, Ivey Business School. 

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Can you quantify social outcomes? A critical look at the Social Return on Investment (SROI)

by Dr Pål Vik, University of Salford, UK

It is hard to compete with the allure of precision and quantitative measures to guide investment and management efforts. On the face of it, quantitative metrics offer a comparable, intuitive, and seemingly robust and objective measure of how well an organisation or company is performing.

The not-for-profit and social enterprise sector has not been immune to this allure. In fact, there has been a distinct shift towards quantitative approaches in proving their social value added in the last few years. Social Return on Investment, or SROI for short, has been among one of the more popular quantitative approaches used by the sector. SROI generates a monetary value of social impact for each pound or dollar invested net of costs. Its' appeal is reinforced by the similarity to conventional cost benefit analysis, making it easily understandable. An important aspect of SROI is that it links the services and products of an organisation with the social outcomes for individuals and groups external to that organisation, generally by comparing the users of a service with a benchmark or control group.

In my recent paper (Vik 2017) I critically assess the viability of calculating a monetary return for social outcomes drawing on over 20 large-scale microfinance impact studies spanning over two decades. There are important lessons from microfinance as the sector has used increasingly sophisticated quantitative approaches to prove social impacts to investors and funders. The chief difficulty has been to link client outcomes to the services provided by microfinance organisations (implicit in the SROI methodology).

It all boils down to one question: How can you find a control group or benchmark that is similar in all aspects save the intervention? Turns out, this is much more difficult than one might think because of two biases. Firstly, those that decide to take out a loan with a microfinance provider are inherently different from non-clients, including in ways that are not easily observable (such as risk aversion and entrepreneurial acumen). Secondly, the clients that these organisations serve have been selected through a careful screening process. In a sense, the likelihood of success may be a precondition to rather than an outcome of the access to microfinance services. These biases are likely to lead to overestimates of social return on investment especially where interventions require a high level of initiative on behalf of the beneficiary and access is subject to a careful screening or selection process.

In my paper, I conclude that rather than striving to apply increasingly sophisticated quantitative methods to quantifying and attributing social outcomes, there should be greater recognition of the limitations of SROI and similar methods. The value of these tools lies in highlighting the value of activities with no obvious monetary value rather than calculating an accurate social return on investment. To paraphrase the British philosopher Carveth Read, it is better to be roughly right than exactly wrong.

Editor's note: This blog post is based on Pål Vik's article "What's so Social about Social Return on Investment? A Critique of Quantitative Social Accounting Approaches Drawing on Experiences of International Microfinance", for which he was awarded the Reg Mathews Memorial Prize in 2017. The Reg Mathews Memorial Prize is an annual award for the paper considered to have made the most significant contribution towards the social and environmental accounting literature published in Social and Environmental Accountability Journal (SEAJ). The paper is selected by the editorial board of SEAJ and is named in memory of Professor Reg Mathews, a leading figure in the development of social and environmental accounting.

As part of the award, Pål Vik's original paper published in Social and Environmental Accountability Journal will be available with free access until February 2019.


Vik, Pål (2017). What's so Social about Social Return on Investment? A Critique of Quantitative Social Accounting Approaches Drawing on Experiences of International Microfinance. Social and Environmental Accountability Journal, 37(1), 6-17.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

The Social and Environmental Accountability Journal (SEAJ)

Matias Laine and Helen Tregidga, SEAJ Joint Editors

SEAJ is the journal of CSEAR and an important part of our community.  Its strength relies on the CSEAR community and as such we would like to take this opportunity to update you on the journal and also outline the various ways you can contribute. 

There have been some recent changes at SEAJ.  Coming to the end of his term as Joint Editor, Carlos Larrinaga vacates the position (Helen will now join Matias as Joint Editor from 2018 – 2021).  We would like to thank him for his service in this role in which time that the journal has continued to develop.  He continues to support the journal in his role as Convenor.  We have also welcomed several new members to the Editorial Board. We are pleased to have them join the team. The SEAJ Editorial Board, we believe, is an amazing collection of scholars in our field drawn from across the globe.  Representative of the growing diversity (geographically and topic wise) of our community.  We encourage you to visit our journal homepage and view our Editorial Board members and journals scope.

While we believe the journal is in a good position, we are mindful of the increasing pressures of the publishing environment.  We need to be mindful and put strategies in place to ensure its success.  We believe one of the strengths and opportunities of the journal is its association with the vibrant CSEAR community and a supportive Editorial Board.  As such, we take the opportunity here to outline our strategy moving forward, and also how you, as CSEAR members and friends, can assist the journal in the coming period.

We know that the driver of achieving our aim of developing the journal in a way that meets the needs of the CSEAR community is an increased profile and, above all, quality submissions.  As such, we have a few ideas for doing this.

In order to raise the profile of the journal we will be starting to tweet new journal content (via the @csearUK Twitter account) and also calls for papers for the journal.  Please, if you are on Twitter, follow CSEAR and retweet SEAJ content as appropriate.  Tweet about the journal and any paper/review that you read.  We know that in the current environment this is important to raise awareness of the journals content and increase readership. 

We are also looking to increase the use of the Commentaries section of the journal.  Commentaries, outlined in the journals aims and scope, are short editorial reviewed pieces which can take the form of a polemic, debate, definitional pieces, revisiting/reviving previous issues/papers, reviews etc.  These types of publications fit with the aim and ethos of the journal and we believe are an ideal way for authors to engage on issues and topics important to our field.

To foster this section of the journal our intent is to commission some pieces from members of our community (including some of you).  We hope that if you are invited you will agree.  We also strongly invite you to contact us with possible commentaries – either ideas you think are worth exploring (ideally with possible suggestions for those we could ask) – or with ideas for pieces that you are interested in contributing yourself!

Special issues continue to be a strong contributor to content.  The special issue for this year (edited by Delphine Gibassier and Simon Alcouffe) is in the final stages of production and submissions are strong for the 2019 special issue on Sustainability Governance (edited by Leonardo Rinaldi).  For the 2020 special issue it has been decided that an appropriate theme would be ‘SEA 2020 and Beyond’. The official information for this issue along with dates for submission etc will be announced shortly, but the aim here is to attract submissions which consider the future of SEA – whether that be issues, theories, methods etc.  Once again, this theme fits the ethos of the journal and our aim to create new academic literature in the broad field of social, environmental and sustainable development accounting, accountability, reporting and auditing.  Please consider supporting this issue by reflecting on your own research in relation to the theme and consider submitting to the issue and encouraging others you know to prepare submissions. 

We also ask that you also consider the journal for regular submission pieces – and again, encourage others to submit their work.  The journal’s aims and scope note that the journal “provides a forum for a wide range of different forms of academic and academic-related communications whose aim is to balance honesty and scholarly rigour with directness, clarity, policy-relevance and novelty”.  We realise we can’t compete for some types of publications with other high ranked journals, nor has this ever been the goal of SEAJ, but we can contribute to the publishing of good quality content that comes in various forms from longer empirical papers to shorter pieces which provide novel contributions. Likewise, in line with our editorial policy and vision, we continue to have interest in novelty and innovation also when it comes to the shape and form of submissions. Interesting and insightful contributions do not always fall within a shape and style expected in most scholarly journals, and hence at SEAJ we remain open to alternative approaches. Obviously, this does not imply that anything would go, but, rather, that in our view scholarly rigour, clarity and relevance do not depend on a manuscript following a particular form or structure.

And, we can’t forget the reviews section of the journal.  We want to thank many of you for supporting this section of the journal – including our emerging scholar community.  Reviews are again a great way for the journal to participate in discussions of topics of interest and critically engage with the field of research.  The reviews team (Michelle Rodrigue, Hannele Mäkelä and Lies Bouten) would be happy to hear from you with potential review items.

Lastly, we want to take the opportunity to thank you for your continued support for the journal. As we note above, a key strength of the journal is a strong and supportive community of researchers.   We aim to continue to provide a journal that supports that community – and look for ways the journal can further reflect the vibrant important research that we all do.

We look forward to working with you all to build SEAJ!