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Towards a better understanding of sustainability accounting and management research and teaching in North America: a look at the community

Charles H. Cho (Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto, Canada)
Anna Kim (Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University, Montreal, Canada)
Michelle Rodrigue (School of Accounting, Université Laval, Quebec City, Canada)
Thomas Schneider (School of Accounting and Finance, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 31 July 2020

Issue publication date: 23 October 2020

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is two-fold. The first is to provide insight into the academic life, teaching and research activities of active participants in the sustainability accounting and management academic community in North America. The second is to provide readers with an overview of the papers in this special issue.

Design/methodology/approach

To meet the first objective, we specifically sought out those who self-identify as sustainability accounting and management academics, based in North American universities and who actively engage in the sustainability academic community in North America. Using an anonymous online survey, this group was asked to respond to various questions about their academic life, research and teaching activities.

Findings

Survey respondents report that they choose to focus on sustainability accounting and management because they want to make a difference (change the world). To that end, the respondents identify carbon emissions and climate change, social issues such as inequalities, as well as grand challenges and sustainable development goals, as important research topics to pursue in the future. While passionate about their research topics, respondents generally note that research outlets that will serve to significantly move their careers forward are difficult to find. A relatively small number of respondents teach sustainability accounting or management, however, most courses taught are dedicated to the topic and teaching sustainability was identified as amongst the most enjoyable aspects of their academic lives.

Practical implications

With study respondents feeling closed out of a number of mainstream journals, career paths at North American institutions could appear somewhat limited for those choosing sustainability accounting and management research as a focus, interest and even passion. This is perhaps even more profound on the teaching side where from a practical perspective, we need to be teaching accountants and managers the significance of sustainability in and for the profession, yes – but even more so for society broadly.

Social implications

As we move into the digital age, it is important that professionals bend their minds to sustainability as much as they do to keep up with the “pace of change” on other fronts. A potential risk is that “high-tech” subsumes equally important social aspects that need to be embedded in the process of generating accounting and management professionals.

Originality/value

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time a survey on the work experiences of a sample of scholars teaching and doing research in the area of sustainability accounting and management has been presented for publication. It is meant to provide some descriptive insights into what drives some active participants in this group of academics and reflect on where the future might lead as sustainability becomes an urgent necessity rather than a choice. These descriptive insights and reflections provide a starting point for future inquiries.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Editor Carol Adams who gave us the opportunity to put together this Special Issue. We are also grateful to all the great reviewers who took time out of their busy schedules to provide constructive feedback to all the papers submitted to the Special Issue. We would also like to thank the Associate Editor and two anonymous reviewers who provided valuable guidance for the development of this paper through the revision process. Last but not least, we wish to thank Oumayma Ouzane, Patrick Vipond and Emily Nield for their outstanding research assistance. Charles Cho acknowledges the financial support provided by the Erivan K. Haub Chair in Business & Sustainability at the Schulich School of Business. We would also like to pay a tribute to the memory of Professor Rob Gray who recently, and very sadly, passed away. Rob is the pioneer of the Sustainability Accounting field, and the founder of the Centre for Social and Environmental Accounting Research (CSEAR). As a brilliant and groundbreaking scholar, dear friend, colleague and mentor, Rob has always been incredibly supportive of the development of sustainability accounting research and the CSEAR community in North America, and was the inaugural plenary speaker of the first-ever CSEAR North America Conference in 2008 (organized by two of the four authors of this paper). He paved the way for so many scholars and is part of the reasons why the four of us ended up working together on this Special Issue that we wish to dedicate to him. Thank you Rob for your support, inspiration and passion.

Citation

Cho, C.H., Kim, A., Rodrigue, M. and Schneider, T. (2020), "Towards a better understanding of sustainability accounting and management research and teaching in North America: a look at the community", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 11 No. 6, pp. 985-1007. https://doi.org/10.1108/SAMPJ-08-2019-0311

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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