On passion for sustainability education and new ways to think about accounting.
This article is part of the series of portraits where RiseB members share their research ideas and plans.
Two areas of research: education for sustainability and sustainability accounting.
-Together with Gert-Olof Boström, we have received funding from PUNKTUM for a project that would develop a support system for sustainability education at the business school. It would help teachers to gain better assessment of students’ knowledge when it comes to sustainability relevant to different subjects. We have also been awarded funds for a project to develop the key sustainability competencies within local organisations in the region (UFS, utvecklingsmedel för samverkan). In the pilot-study, we explore how education for sustainability in organisation is needed and can be integrated in their ongoing work.
When it comes to sustainability accounting, my research has focused on the role of equality and well-being for audit teams as a new measurement for audit quality, and I am involved in several international collaborations and research projects within this area.
My goal is to inspire teachers to advance sustainability in their education and develop new courses on sustainability in business.
Alice’s interest in education for sustainability was revived twenty years ago when she was teaching in schools across Europe and South-East Asia. Eventually, she found the Education for Sustainable Development MSc program at the University of Gothenburg. A new program at the time, it gave many stimulating ideas and gave support for the project she is developing now.
-My goal is to inspire teachers to advance sustainability in their education and develop new courses on sustainability in business. I started to work with this by organizing pedagogical seminars and planning days at USBE. Several colleagues showed an interest and got involved with our teaching support platform. Business students are increasingly aware of social and ecological problems, and there is a great need for action now from both teachers and students to help improve our sustainability competencies.
If funded, our project would connect an interactive assessment tool to a support database and link the curriculum to pedagogical approaches that teachers could use to educate students for sustainability. The teacher would be able to know what knowledge students have when they enter the course and also get ideas for suitable pedagogical approaches that help students to progress in their learning. Next semester, we are also planning to invite guest lectures with expertise in education for sustainability to organize interdisciplinary seminars with the whole faculty of social science.
While interested in pedagogics, the research career initially took a different path for Alice who ended up doing her PhD within accounting. She looked at measuring audit quality from the perspective of sustainability, focusing on equality and well-being and how it affects audit teams and the quality of their work.
-My doctoral research was all about thinking outside of the box when it comes to audit quality. So many studies out there are still relying on detached measurements and audit researchers have called for new more tangible approaches to measuring audit quality. Since I have a great interest in the sustainability perspective, I concentrated on equality and well-being, and how auditors work together to create a better team environment and audit quality. About half-way through my PhD, the United Nations announced the Sustainable Development Goals, which I found helped connect my ideas to the accounting perspective.
Several of my articles on equality in audit teams have received positive support to continue this work, which indicates an interest in the field. There are several different and new collaborations underway with research groups both internationally and here in Sweden that also involve gender equality in audit and management accounting. At USBE we want to start a new MSc course in sustainability accounting, which can benefit from the research we are doing.
Accounting for sustainability would mean a shift from focusing on economic growth and efficiency for the individual to measuring such things as well-being and equity for society and all life forms.
One of the most important things in teaching sustainability accounting for Alice is to open people’s eyes to how things are measured and what we actually account for.
-Accounting for sustainability requires new types of interdisciplinary knowledge. New measurement tools, and working with different types of organizations and departments to receive deeper, richer data. Think, for example, of measuring the quality of water and plastic waste that are a byproduct of the fishery industry. We can learn from social science, natural science and technical/applied science. My inspiration comes from Kate Raworth, a Cambridge and Oxford economist, who problematizes how things are measured in economics. She proposes a growth-agnostic view that focuses on the economy in balance between society and the environment as planetary boundaries. Accounting for sustainability would mean a shift from focusing on economic growth and efficiency for the individual to measuring such things as well-being and equity for society and all life forms.