The blog that follows is a summary of my original blog posted on the CSEAR blog
Teaching Social and Environmental Accounting (SEA) related topics, such as environmental accounting, carbon accounting or integrated reporting was not an easy task to bring to (French) business schools. I was told business companies did not care, or that students could at most get “an introduction” because the topic was not on the chartered accountancy exam. While I was able to teach an optional course in carbon accounting in 2013 thanks to a SEA research-focused colleague, the door remained closed elsewhere.
However, nowadays, things are different. Possibly, the advent of integrated reporting (IR) raised a wider interest, as - thanks to the new kind of reporting - it is easier to see through the connection between accounting and sustainability. I decided to introduce this "new topic" with "new" teaching methods.
First, I started with a twitter challenge. Students had to look for 10 articles or view points for and against (IR) and had to tweet the link with a specific hashtag, to that everyone would be able to follow and access the documents. After collecting all the links, students had to write an team-essay, highlighting the strenghts and negatives of IR.
Second, I used a case study to introduce key concepts and developed a new one on "materiality" (contact me if you'd like to know more!)
Third, I decided to focus on the key accounting concept in integrated reports: “the capitals”. Since there is not “best practice” yet and that it is an “ongoing” practice, I built a database of existing integrated reports. I developed a 1300+integrated reports database. From this database, I extracted around 50 reports on “business models” (with capitals), natural capital, human/intellectual/social capitals, as well as a few that reported using stakeholder voices as focus. Working in groups, students were asked to develop their own analytical grid to decide what were the “best” integrated reports on, for example, “natural capital”. In class, we then discussed together the key criteria they used in this assessment. They wrote a first presentation after the 30-hour seminar, a second version after 3 weeks, and a final version after another 2 weeks.
All in all, the teaching was based on developing students' own understanding of IR, and matering the key concepts behind the idea of IR and realising that when value is multifaceted, accounting has to develop various ways of accounting for it.