Towards Responsible Finance and Accounting

Leaves of birch over the water with ripples from the raindrops. Responsible finance and accounting takes care of nature, planet, environment, people and profit.

With the forthcoming publication of the first book in the Routledge-CoBS Focus on Responsible Business series, Professors Adrian Zicari, ESSEC Business School & Council on Business & Society, and Qinqin Zheng, School of Management Fudan University, set the tone for the shift towards responsible finance and corporate accounting.

Towards Responsible Finance and Accounting by Adrian Zicari and Qinqin Zheng.

For a long time, the fields of Finance and Accounting seemed to be detached from social responsibilities and ethical considerations. For many people, both in practice and in academia, those issues were of course important, but they still remained alien to the essence of business. They were considered unimportant for the business model and irrelevant for corporate strategy.

Moreover, they were neither a central issue to research or learning at business schools. At most, these issues would be seen as a kind of afterthought or perhaps an issue to relegate to a compliance officer.

We may see here the long shadow of the famous Friedman (1970) article, so frequently cited and so frequently “mis-cited” too. While this is not the place to begin (another!) discussion on that article, we can safely say that most people retain Friedman’s idea of a strict separation between efficiency and social responsibility.

The role of management would be exclusively to make the “wheel” turn faster as long as the rules of the game were respected. Only in that context can we understand Friedman’s famous claim, “the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits”. Nothing else would matter.

No longer a simple good intention

However, recent studies indicate that social performance does matter. We used to think that it was of concern only to clients, employees and the community. The novelty is that social responsibility matters to shareholders as well.

These shareholders care about the social impacts of the companies whose shares they own. Indeed, much current research consistently supports the idea that this trend is increasing everywhere, and that it goes well beyond the specific niche of socially responsible investing.

As such, we can claim that CSR/Sustainability/Business Ethics are becoming more and more relevant for Finance and Accounting. They are no longer merely good intentions or praiseworthy considerations. Indeed, they no longer constitute a public image “strategy” or a choice for others to implement.

Today, in the context of environmental, social and governance responsibilities, as well as the lasting impact of the pandemic and cycles of crisis, they are (or are becoming) the normal way to conduct responsible and ethical business.

Adrian Zicari and Qinqin Zheng with a focus on finance and accounting
Adrian Zicari and Qinqin Zheng
Responsible Finance and Accounting: Performance and profit for better business, society and planet - the book.

Responsible Finance and Accounting: Performance and profit for better business, society and planet

Contributors to this book, in order of appearance: 

Read a related article: The 3 pillars of responsible leadership

Learn more about the Council on Business & Society

The Council on Business & Society (The CoBS), visionary in its conception and purpose, was created in 2011, and is dedicated to promoting responsible leadership and tackling issues at the crossroads of business and society including sustainability, diversity, ethical leadership and the place responsible business has to play in contributing to the common good.  

Member schools are all “Triple Crown” accredited AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA and leaders in their respective countries.

The Council on Business & Society member schools:
- Asia-Pacific: Keio Business School, Japan; School of Management Fudan University; China; ESSEC Business School Asia-Pacific, Singapore.
- Europe: ESSEC Business School, France; IE Business School, Spain; Trinity Business School, Ireland; Warwick Business School, United Kingdom.
- Africa: Stellenbosch Business School, South Africa; ESSEC Africa, Morocco. 
- South America: FGV-EAESP, Brazil.

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