Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Social Responsibility and Governance

  • This cluster focusses on how accountability and responsibility is achieved in a variety of organisations using a range of methodological approaches.

    The nature of the relationship between business and society is changing and there is increasing pressure on organisations to be more accountable and socially responsible. The research in this cluster considers the broader roles of accounting and corporate governance in society and the impact businesses have on a wide range of stakeholders. These issues are explored from both theoretical and practical perspectives and encompassing a range of disciplinary and methodological approaches. Research is currently conducted into corporate governance in the investment intermediary chain, external reporting and internal control structures and processes in a range of organisations, from large plcs to small charities. Researchers also investigate the thinking which underpins accountability in practice, such as stakeholder theory. There is also critical accounting research that is interdisciplinary, drawing on political and social theory.

    Within this research cluster there are four areas of research which explore how accountability and social responsibility are achieved in organisations.


    Projects

    Stakeholder management, measurement and reporting

  • Stakeholder theory is widely accepted but elementary aspects remain indeterminate. ‘Stakeholder’ is an essentially contested concept: variously describable, internally complex and open in character. Contestability is highly problematic for theory development and empirical testing. The solution does not lie in a universal definition, but in debating boundaries of stakeholder identification. The extent of contestability is demonstrated through a systematic review of 593 stakeholder definitions. This research is the first attempt at a comprehensive, multidimensional classification of stakeholder theory. Classification constructs juxtapose multi-contextual stakeholder theory applications providing an invaluable overview of stakeholder theory. The model is empirically tested with positive results.

    2015

    Academics

    2015 Stakeholder Theory Classification: A Theoretical and Empirical Evaluation of Definitions, Journal of Business Ethics, forthcoming (online from 08 July 2015)

    2017 Stakeholder Theory Classification, Definitions and Essential Contestability, in Stakeholder Theory, eds Wasieleski, D. and Weber, J., Business and Society, 360 series, Emerald, Bingley, UK. (forthcoming)

     

    Hundreds of stakeholder definitions exist. Whilst every concept is liable to be contested, this is problematic for theoretical and empirical analysis of stakeholder theory. This research explores whether this lack of consensus is conceptual confusion, which would benefit from further debate to reach a higher degree of elucidation, or whether the stakeholder concept is essentially contested, rendering the quest to seek a singular definition unfeasible.. The seven criteria Gallie (1956) prescribes for evaluating essentially contested concepts are applied to the stakeholder concept. The analysis suggests that ‘stakeholder’ is an essentially contested concept and this explains the degree of definitional variation.

    2012

    Academics

    2012 Stakeholders: Essentially Contested or Just Confused? Journal of Business Ethics, 108 (3): 285-298

    This study assesses mutual benefits to be gained from cross-disciplinary research that examines how marketing and stakeholder management functions can learn from, and inform each other to enhance theory and practice. A ladder of relationship marketing is presented; it shows levels of stakeholder engagement in the contexts of trust, conflict and power. This research demonstrates where marketers could benefit from extending the focus of relationship management from the customer to a wider range of marketing stakeholders to build trust and foster loyalty. It highlights how advanced engagement approaches that have evolved from marketing practice exceed current thought in stakeholder theory.

    2017

    Academics

    This research presents an analysis of the boundary of Corporate Social Responsibility Reporting (CSRR). Many companies strategically define boundary and consequently omit many material impacts. Content analysis of 2014-15 CSRR of 35 airline companies is undertaken to determine boundary constructs. A coding framework is derived from analysis of 23 CSRR guidance and 22/46 GRI (2013) indicators assessed to have the potential to demonstrate an extended boundary. Correlation analysis indicates strategic boundary setting across issues, pseudo-stakeholder consultation and ineffective attempts by GRI to widen boundary setting in practice. The implications of boundary construction are illustrated with worse/best case examples

    2017

    Academics:

    This research reviews the extent to which stakeholder theory has been applied to, and adopted within accounting academic literature. The influence of stakeholder theory in accounting is growing but lags behind other business disciplines, partly because shareholder primacy is the dominant paradigm, even in relation to sustainability reporting. The findings indicate that the epistemological structure and socio-cultural characteristics of accounting are yet to converge, with education lagging behind contemporary thinking. Further advances in accounting, informed by a stakeholder theory approach, represents a strong opportunity for the discipline and as a route to mainstream stakeholder theory through changing the managerial mind-set.

    2017

    Academics

  • Corporate Governace

  • Credit Ratings Agencies play a critical role in the debt markets but they have been heavily criticised for their lack of scrutiny in the financial crisis. Working on various projects with the University of the West of Scotland and Nottingham Trent University, this research has examined market participants’ perceptions of ratings quality, the role of commitment in debt issuer: CRA relations and market participants’ perceptions of the EU regulation regarding CRAs.

    Ongoing

    Academics

    Institutional investors play an important role in the corporate governance process by monitoring and engaging with their investee companies (stewardship role). This project explores the stewardship role of institutional investors by undertaking a content analysis of the institutional investors’ Stewardship Statements required under the recently implemented UK Stewardship Code

    Ongoing

    Academics

  • Critical Accounting

  • This strand of research focuses on the role of Accounting in Society by drawing on political and social theory. Individual projects focus on:

    • Working with Royal Holloway and the University of Canberra, this project investigates the work of the IASB and their extension to standard setting for SMEs through critical political theory.
    • Working with researchers from Royal Holloway and the University of Canberra, this study examines how prudence impacts the everyday practice of accountants through interviews with practitioners.
    • A critical examination of the role of debt as a form of control in developed and developing countries, and the role of accounting technologies in this control.

    Ongoing

    Academics:

    •  Rebecca Warren
  • Grants

  • Project with consultancy firm Europe Economics on the state of the ratings market. Funder: DG FISMA (EU)

    June 2015 - January 2016

    Academics

  • Accountability In Not-For Profit Organisations

  • This project investigates how performance measures are used to manage charities. Voluntary sector organisations are under increasing pressure to account for their performance via measures. The study employs 5 case studies of UK hospices to understand the role of performance measures in performance management. It argues that management control  is exercised by other mechanisms than just measures.

    Ongoing

    Academics

    Projects in this area examine:

    1. The similarities between co-operatives and charities in the independent arts sectors in the UK, France and Italy; with Burgundy Business School
    2. Accounting for different capitals in multi-stakeholder organisations, with ICAEW/ Sheffield Business School
    3. Use of IT in small charities to gather information needed to fulfil their mission with Brookes colleagues
    4. Possible formats for co-operative reporting working with the Centre of Excellence in Accounting and Reporting for Co-operatives, St. Mary’s University, Canada.

    Ongoing

    Academics

  • Departmental Staff

  • Applications for PhD students

    Applications for PhD supervision are welcomed in:

    • Corporate Governance
    • Corporate Social Responsibility
    • Stakeholder Theory

    Current PhD Students

    Ali Almoghrabi
    Topic: Corporate Governance, Risk Management, Performance Management in Banks

    Start date: September 2015

    Sylwia Peczak
    Topic: Differences in the performance between state and independent banks in Poland, based on their differences in corporate governance practice

    Start date: January 2015

    Samaneh Elmi
    Topic: An analysis of the relationship between the UK Stewardship Code and the financial performance of UK asset managers

    Start date: September 2015