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Issues in Social and Environmental AccountingVol. 2, No. 2 Dec 2008/Jan 2009Pp 155-157 Editorial Notes Addressing a Broad Scope SEA Research AgendaAs global warming, carbon credits, de- tended to focus our attention upon con-forestation, pollution and resource de- tent analyses of corporate annual reportpletion have now become major issues disclosures and attempts to track theirof national and international govern- relationship to corporate financial per-ment, media and community attention, formance and stock price behaviour.SEA researchers find themselves in the Such research has been conducted inter-unaccustomed position of increasingly nationally now for several decades andoccupying centre stage in matters of na- risks remaining a narrow preoccupationtional and global importance. This is a that is rapidly falling behind the emerg-long way from our traditional role as ing SEA issues of our time.fringe dwellers and prophets in a capitalmarkets dominating accounting research There remains a much broader researchand practice world. Given the fashion- agenda to be addressed. SEA reportingable trend towards researching environ- now reaches far wider than the tradi-mental KPIs, carbon accounting and the tional annual report. The internet is nowlike, there are significant risks. First employed by many organisations offer-there is the risk that traditional finance ing web links and special purpose sepa-focussed researchers, seeing opportuni- rate SEA reports that present a farties for research grants and consultan- greater spectrum of information andcies, will capture the agenda and move it greater range of disclosure forms thantowards a strategy of societal pacifica- previously made available in traditionaltion and corporate profit preservation. annual reports. Yet to date, very littleSecond there is the risk that the overall attention has been paid by researchers tosocial and environmental responsibility this emerging phenomenon. This issueprogram will be hijacked by an exclu- of our journal features one such wel-sive focus on compliance measurement come paper in this area.systems for environmental impact. In addition, many researchers have be-As evidenced by the range of papers in come preoccupied with environmentalthis issue of our journal, the SEA re- disclosures. Yet for many countries andsearch agenda must remain necessarily their governments, issues of corporatebroad scope, embracing both social and community programs and corporate im-environmental responsibility issues. This pact, corporate employee education andfield embraces rather more than even training, equal opportunity employment,many established SEA researchers com- and occupational health and safety in themonly recognise. For too long we have workplace remain major concerns and
156 L. Parker / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2008/2009) 155-157policy issues. These are areas in which dia attention in the SEA area? How doboth accounting and audit researchers their disclosures about their own SEAcan yet make significant contributions. programs and impact compare with me- dia reports? While some studies haveBut wait. There’s more! Much of the been carried out on these questions,published SEA research literature to date much more remains to be done. Again,has focussed upon studies of large or- this issue of the journal provides an ex-ganisations and organisations in devel- ample of research which takes mediaoped economies. We know little about disclosure into account.the activities and challenges of manag-ing and accounting for corporate social It would be remiss to offer this review ofand environmental responsibility in our potential SEA agenda without a callsmall and medium sized organisations. for far greater attention to internal cor-Similarly, the body of published re- porate SEA management and accountingsearch evidence on the SEA activities processes. This is an area which often-and challenges in developing countries times is left by researchers as an un-remains small indeed. Yet larger organi- opened black box. We know little of thesations and developed economies may internal management planning, decision-have much to learn from research con- making and control processes that makeducted in smaller organisations and de- up corporate reactions to communityveloping economies. Similarly the SEA demands and legislative pressure, or thatresearch community has tended to focus build strategies for moving beyond mini-its attention upon particular industries mum legal compliance requirements tosuch as manufacturing, mining, and offer path breaking innovations in socialchemicals – all traditionally viewed as and environmental development pro-high risk high impact areas of activity in grams and associated reporting. In sorelation to the environment and local doing, we have the opportunity to liftcommunities. Yet other industries, while our gaze to include an assessment of theless in the public spotlight, do evidence linkages and relationships between SEAmajor potential impact on environment, strategising and the implementation ofworkforce and communities. They carry SEA performance measurement and re-their own peculiar characteristics, have porting (both internal and external) sys-major SEA and economic impacts and tems. To date most SEA researchersoffer great potential for future learning have worked around this processualand development. These include the black box, thereby having little under-tourism and hospitality industry, the standing of SEA management and ac-transport industry, utilities, food and counting processes, their rationales andbeverage, and more. implementation.Further broadening in scope awaits. Few The language of this editorial betrays astudies to date have addressed the rela- further almost unconscious limiting oftionship between corporate SEA disclo- our horizons. To this point it has exclu-sures and media attention and disclo- sively referred to the corporate sector.sures. Yet media remains a dominant Yet in both developed and developingform of community reporting and de- economies, the public sector and thirdbate. How do organisations react to me- (non-profit) sector are large scale sectors
L. Parker / Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting 2 (2008/2009) 155-157 157employing and affecting the lives of through which national and internationalmany people in society. They operate SEA theory and practice has travelledacross many industries, from social wel- over the past 30 or 40 years. We knowfare, to health, education and utilities, as even less of social and environmentalwell as telecommunications, transport management and accounting pioneersand more. Indeed, despite moves to- and their work in the 19th and 20th centu-wards ‘small’ government in some coun- ries. There were such pioneers, both in-tries, the size of the public sector and its dividuals and organisations. We need toreach have continued to expand, while at rediscover these, and appreciate theirthe same time many services and activi- innovations, their contexts, motivationsties have been outsourced from the pub- and the heritage they have laid down andlic sector to the non-profit sector. All of the lessons they have offered to us to-these have major responsibilities and day.impacts upon both society and environ-ment. Yet compared to the private This is admittedly a broad canvass, but it(corporate) sector, they customarily are paints a portrait of emerging opportuni-accountable to a much broader range of ties and important ecological and com-stakeholders, manage a much more com- munity needs to which we as accountingplex array of resources and activities and management researchers have a re-than their private sector (corporate) sponsibility to respond. Taking up thiscounterparts. Hence these two major challenge requires imagination and crea-sectors merit far greater attention than tivity, but offers the prospect of adven-accounting researchers have hitherto ture and impact! We hope to see muchaccorded them. more of this type of research emerging in the pages of Issues in SEA.Finally this call for a broader scopeagenda in SEA research would not becomplete without drawing attention to Lee Parkerthe paucity of historical research cur- School of Commercerently available in the SEA field. We University of South Australia Adelaide, South Australiaknow little of the paths of development Lee.Parker@unisa.edu.au
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