Next Sustainability Seminar explores the dual face of sustainability reporting

Charles Cho

Charles Cho, professor of accounting, the Erivan K. Haub Chair in Business & Sustainability and the director of the Centre of Excellence in Responsible Business at the Schulich School of Business at York University will deliver the next featured lecture in the Sustainability Seminar Series. His public lecture will take place on Thursday, Feb. 28, from 12 to 1 p.m. in Room 125, Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence, Keele Campus. All are welcome to attend.

Cho’s seminar titled “Sustainability Reporting: Frontstage, Backstage, Façades and Hypocrisy” takes direct aim at differing public face (frontstage) and private (backstage) actions of corporations. Specifically, he will look at the growing pervasiveness of sustainability discourse (or reporting) and how, despite its potential to help corporations be more accountable and transparent about their social and environmental impacts, there has been growing criticism asserting that such reporting is utilized primarily as an impression management tool.

This is illustrated by the contrast between companies’ frontstage (public) sustainability communications on environmental stewardship and responsibility, and their less visible but proactive backstage political activities (Goffman’s terms). He will explore the backstage activities targeted to facilitate the passage of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) Bill – a legislation that would allow oil exploration and drilling of the most sensitive environmental areas in the refuge. This persistent significant gap between corporate sustainability talk and practice also leads to the argument that contradictory societal and institutional pressures, as well as conflicting stakeholder demands, require organizations to engage in hypocrisy and develop façades, thereby severely limiting the prospects that sustainability reports will ever evolve into substantive disclosures.

Cho’s research interests encompass social and environmental accounting, corporate social responsibility and accounting and the public interest. He has published extensively and his papers have been featured in academic journals such as the Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, Accounting, Organizations and Society, Critical Perspectives on Accounting, the European Accounting Review and the Journal of Business Ethics. Cho was also an invited author of chapters in several books. His work has been presented at various national and international conferences such as the American Accounting Association (AAA) Annual Meeting, the Canadian Academic Accounting Association (CAAA), the European Accounting Association (EAA) Annual Congress and the International Congresses on Social and Environmental Accounting Research.

An engaging and dynamic speaker, Cho is regularly invited as a plenary keynote speaker at international conferences and is actively involved in the academic community as a council member of the Centre for Social and Environmental Accounting Research and Chair of the International Associates Committee.

This lecture is part of a seminar series offered through the President’s Sustainability Council. The lecture is free and open to the public, all are welcome.

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