Academic empathy dialogue – Sustainability Reporting

Posted by GIOVANNA MICHELON - Nov 18, 2021

The EAA Virtual Activities Committee is pleased to announce that the next Academic Empathy Dialogue (AED) on “Sustainability Reporting”. The AED will host Jan Bebbington (Lancaster University) and Hans Christensen (Chicago Booth), mediated by Robin Roberts (University of Central Florida) on January 12 at 5.00pm CET.

To watch the recording, click here.

Two primary forces are accelerating ESG disclosure by companies and investors.  These forces are (1) coalescing concerns about a variety of environmental and social problems (such as, climate change, human rights, nature loss) and (2) beliefs that corporate disclosures related to these, and other aspects of organizational performance, are warranted. In the world of practice there are widespread (but variable in nature and quality) voluntary corporate disclosures on such matters with disclosure being increasingly mandated in some form. Concomitantly, there is a significant uptick in academic activity that seeks to document reporting, understand its effects on a variety of stakeholders (including capital market participants) and evaluate its broader significance. A variety of research methods have been used in these explorations as have an equally wide variety of theories/conceptual frames.

This variety in theory and method leaves ‘sustainability reporting’ as a contested space. It is clear that some kind of significant ‘account making’ activity is in play but there is little clarity on what it is about.

This EAA academic empathy conversation will explore topics such as:

  • What are the bounds for sustainability reporting? Do we need more nuanced language to capture the range of activities that are talked about when researchers discuss sustainability reporting?
  • Are different kinds of sustainability reporting distinct from each other? And what is the impact of these differences?
  • What ‘work’ do we assume sustainability reporting does in civil society and, more narrowly, for organisations and their relationships with stakeholders?
  • What might be the usefulness of (some degree of) mandatory requirements in this area?
  • What might this mean for scholarship (and especially research that seeks to capture a holistic picture of the nature and functionality of sustainability reporting)?

Background readings

  • Bebbington, J., Österblom, H., Crona, B., Jouffray, J. B., Larrinaga, C., Russell, S., & Scholtens, B. (2019). Accounting and accountability in the Anthropocene. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal.
  • Christensen, H. B., Floyd, E., Liu, L. Y., & Maffett, M. (2017). The real effects of mandated information on social responsibility in financial reports: Evidence from mine-safety records. Journal of Accounting and Economics, 64(2-3), 284-304.

The EAA Virtual Activities Committee

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