Critique (1) on Theoretical Paper

Author: Mia Kaspersen & Thomas Riise Johansen
Title of article: Changing Social and Environmental Reporting Systems
Publication: Journal of Business Ethics (2016) 135:731–749

Summary: The paper talks about Social and Environment Reporting (SER) systems with respect to how changes are auditable (who requested for change, what was changed, who made the change, who approved the change and the analysis of the impact of the change on outcomes) and the challenges or issues brought about by the change. The system adopts financial accounting standards, principles and practices to make achieving an auditable information system called SER system possible. The paper highlighted the below as challenges arising from the change:

  • Internal control difficulties
  • Incorporation of account knowledge to the system
  • Organisation boundaries establishment and consolidation

A: Quality of the Research

Item Your Comments
1. Is the research question or objective clearly stated?     Yes. The abstract was clear as to what the objective of the paper is. The research question was stated explicitly in the introduction.
The literature review made understanding of the SER system and process clear. There is also section for Research method which buttresses the research question.
2. Is the research question interesting and important?     Yes it is very interesting and important as it stated the need to know how and why “SERA” programme aimed at changing the way data is prepared to ensure auditable SER system actually achieve this aim.
3. Is the work original?       Yes it is original even though it is built on previous research work and uses a case study material, the approach in terms of the usage of theoretical theme (problematization, traceability and accounting knowledge) makes it original.
4. Is the background research clear and relevant?     Yes it is very clear and relevant because it adds to existing literatures on the subject of SER by responding to action points from previous research work relating to social and environmental data processing; provides empirical evidence on the idea of data audit and addresses the view that auditee organisation is the ‘change agent’ rather the auditor.
5. Are there any ethical problems?   None that I know of. I believe there should be none because this paper is from a Business Ethic journal so they would not be trapped in such ethical issues as regards to their published papers.

B: The Research Method

Item Your Comments
Summarise the research method     The context of the research is based on a case study selection of a company called UtilGroup which selection was based on experience with SER; the desire for SER; and because the organisation is large enough to have been comfortable using several internal systems.
Empirical research method was adopted by the authors through conduct of interviews; analysis of empirical materials and internal documents.
Does the research method seem appropriate for the research question?   Yes the empirical materials adopted ensures that the different group level defined by functions answers questions relating to: the company’s perspective to SER; the acceptance and acquisition of information system and associated procedures; technical expertise on information system; experience with the operation and management of the system; and data usage
Are the methods adequately described?     Yes the methods are well described. Interviews was conducted for UtilGroup selected from different groups in the organisation with interview lasting 1-2hours.
The interview aligns with the established theoretical themes of problematization, traceability and accounting knowledge.
Were the analyses done correctly?     Yes. The data on activities under study were grouped in a table based on the theoretical themes established and analysis was done in the order of problematization of auditability, traceability and embracing of accounting technologies to SER factors/parameters.
Are the conclusions supported by the data?     Yes it shows clearly that the analysed data reflects the relevance of adopting financial accounting practices to achieve auditable SER and the challenges brought about by the change in SER data preparation.

C: Quality of Presentation

Item Your Comments
Is the work well presented?       Yes well presented with uniform formatting for heading, subheading and text; footnote; tables and figures. The flow of content is also consistent.
Is the paper well structured?     Yes it was well structured with introduction; literature review; research method (including case context); analysis and findings; and then conclusion.
Are symbols, terms, and concepts adequately defined?   All acronyms and abbreviations are well defined and stated at the start of the paper after abstract.
Would additional tables, figures help to clarify the work?   Yes. A table of the Excel data being collected and aggregated would have been included to better expatiate the analysis processing.

D: Additional Notes

Use this section to record additional notes on the paper. In particular you should identify any links to other topics and papers from the module     “Social and Environmental Reporting (SER) is a form of Corporate Social Responsibility and can be viewed as the vehicle through which organisations take responsibility for their impact on society and the environment.” (Luyu et al., 2015).
This paper draws on the work of Power (1996) which explains how to make a subject of interest auditable through essential systems and align such with social and environmental reporting.
Mia (2013) stated that SER has gained widespread adoption in organisations and dig deeper from organisation point of view into audit trail and reporting environment; the role engaging with stakeholder played in SER; and reason for excluding effects of specific organisation activities from social and environmental reports.
Md et al. (2017) argued that motivations to disclosure of corporate social and environmental reports can be proactive (personal interest and image promotion) or reactive (avoid pressure from government agencies and international organisations); low disclosures are experienced more in office and humanitarian environments.
Crawford (2007) said like CSR, ESR are driven by pressures (stakeholder, risk and peer pressure) and benefits (reputations, social-economic and business achievements). This is in tandem with Md et al. (2017).
Rob et al. (2017) mentioned political economy, legitimacy theory and stakeholder theory as complementary theories to social disclosure and went further to establish that there is tension between “classical” and “bourgeois” perspectives of political economy theories in interpreting social disclosure.
Mohammed (2010) states that socio-economic and political factors of the environment an organisation operates determine its decision to involve in corporate social and environmental reporting. Unlike Rob et al. (2017), he supports the use of only political economy because of its global consequences.

References

  1. Crawford, S. (2007). Social and environmental reporting and the business case. Certified Accountants Educational Trust.
  2. Luyu, G., Suvi, H., & Naomi, O. (2015). Social and Environmental Reporting. Retrieved 14 February, 2019, https://www.slideshare.net/NaomiODonoghue/social-and-environmental-reporting-an-essay
  3. Mia, K. (2013). The Construction of Social and Environmental Reporting. Retrieved 14 February, 2019, https://openarchive.cbs.dk/bitstream/handle/10398/8667/Mia_Kaspersen_Summary.pdf
  4. Md, M.H., Mahmood, A.M., Anna L.R., & Mohammed, Q. (2017). Corporate social and environmental reporting practices: A case of listed companies in Bangladesh. Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, 8(2), 138-165. Doi:10.1108/SAMPJ-04-2015-0027
  5. Mohammed, B.H. (2010). An Overview of Corporate Social and Environmental Reporting (CSER) in Developing Countries. Issues in Social and Environmental Accounting, 4(1), 3-17.
  6. Power, M. (1996). Making things auditable. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 21(2), 289-315. doi:10.1016/0361-3682(95)00004-6
  7. Rob, G., Reza, K., & Simon, L. (1995). Corporate social and environmental reporting: a review of the literature and a longitudinal study of UK disclosure. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 8(2), 47-77. doi: 10.1108/09513579510146996


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