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Information for decision making - theme publications

Resource reporting

Journal article: Fossil fuel reserves and resource reporting and unburnable carbon

Bebbington, J., Schneider, T., Stevenson, L. & Fox, A. (2020). Fossil fuel reserves and resource reporting and unburnable carbon: investigating conflicting accounts. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 66 (January 2020.102083).

This paper investigates fossil fuel reserves and resources disclosures and how they might change in response to global climate change agreements that seek to limit greenhouse gas emissions. On the one hand, it might be expected that fossil fuel firms will be less valuable if their reserves become ‘unburnable’. On the other hand, capital markets currently assign a positive value to fossil fuel reserves and resources. A conundrum, therefore, exists. Given that accounting disclosure rules underpin capital market valuation processes, this setting provides an opportunity to interrogate the functionality of accounting during a time of change. To achieve this goal, a multi-methods investigation has been undertaken; combining a survey of accounting disclosure rules for reserves, identification of accounting disclosures made by fuel firms in several country stock markets, and stock market participants’ views on the extent to which unburnable carbon exists. Using Miller and Power (2013) we identify when and how unburnable carbon could be recognized in corporate reporting.

Financial mechanisms

Journal article: Leverage points for seafood sustainability in the financial sector

Jouffray,J.B., Crona, B., Wassénius, E., Bebbington, J. & Scholtens, B. (2019). Leverage points for seafood sustainability in the financial sector. Science Advances, 5 (10): eaax3324.

This paper was awarded the best finance and sustainability paper for 2020 from the Forum Pour L’Investissement Responable/Principles for Responsible Investment.

This paper uses a mixed-methods approach to identify different financial mechanisms that might affect a seafood firm’s development trajectory. Three leverage points are identified that might be used to redirect capital toward more sustainable practices. These leverage points are: loan covenants (where bank borrowing includes the achievement of social/environmental performance standards), stock exchange listing rules (which could require ecological risk, in particular, to be identified), and shareholder activism (where the ultimate owners of seafood companies might require higher sustainability performance of the companies they invest in).

UN Sustainable Development Goals

Journal article: Achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Bebbington J. and Unerman, J. (2018). Achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: an enabling role of accounting research. Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, 31(1) 2-24.

This paper was awarded the outstanding article prize in this journal for 2018 as voted for my the editorial board.

This paper provides the ‘stepping off point’ for accounting studies and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by providing a synthesis of interdisciplinary perspectives on sustainable development and integrating these with the accounting for sustainability literature. The paper notes that existing research in accounting that is relevant to individual SDGs and serves as an initial link between them and the accounting discipline. At the same time, the SDGs focus highlights new sites for empirical work (including interdisciplinary investigations) as well as inviting innovation in accounting theoretical frameworks. The paper proposes a research agenda in this area.