Conference on "Research in Corporate Accountability Reporting"
In the last decade, a growing number of for-profit corporations across the world have started voluntarily augmenting their annual financial reports with reports on "corporate sustainability," "corporate social responsibility," and "corporate environmental performance," among others. As of April 2011, there are over 32,000 such reports on the Corporate Register, a database archiving "global corporate responsibility" reports.
Relatedly, a number of private organizations have emerged that bundle the standard setting and assurance / auditing activities for corporate accountability reports, including the Global Reporting Initiative, B Lab, and AccountAbility. The financial crisis of 2008-2009 has generated additional momentum.
Speaking as a member of the Wall Street Journal's CEO Council, Sir Martin Sorrell argued, "Companies should talk less about the benefits to shareholders of short-term profits and focus on customer needs, investment in labor, and sustainability."
Corporate accountability reporting is broadly consistent with at least two hypotheses:
such reporting augments shareholders' demand for information and monitoring;
such reporting responds to non-shareholder constituents' demands, potentially, but not necessarily, at shareholders' expense.
As public corporations devote more resources to corporate accountability reporting that differs from traditional corporate financial reporting, there is a demand for a better understanding (or explanation) of the phenomenon. For example:
- Descriptively speaking, what exactly is corporate accountability reporting and what forces drive its demand? How do these activities differ from corporate social responsibility of the 1970s and Milton Friedman's New York Times Magazine article (September 13, 1970)?
- What are the measurement properties of corporate accountability reporting? Is such material comparable, conservative, and verifiable? How do assurance and auditing affect the quality?
- How do the properties of the reporting vary across jurisdictions and with the relative strength of stakeholder groups such as labor unions, environmental activists, and community activists?
- Does corporate accountability reporting change corporate culture and firm behavior? Does it lead to firms internalizing some of the potential externalities of corporate decision making?
- Do firms tie executive compensation to corporate accountability reporting? If so, what are its consequences?
- What are the stated objectives of corporate accountability? Does corporate accountability reporting achieve, on average, its stated objective? Does accountability reporting have measurable economic consequences? What are the determinants of such economic consequences?
On January 18, 2013, Harvard Business School's Accounting & Management Unit will host an academic conference for research on corporate accountability reporting. Papers for consideration must be submitted to CorpAccountabilityConf@hbs.edu by September 1, 2012.
At the authors' discretion, papers submitted to the conference will be considered for publication in the Journal of Accounting & Economics subject to the Journal's regular review process and a submission fee of $500. The Journal of Accounting & Economics encourages the application of economic theory to the explanation of accounting phenomena. It provides a forum for the publication of the highest quality manuscripts that employ economic analyses of accounting problems.