Corporate responsibility and accountability in the twenty first century: why accountants have moved beyond numbers…
In the corporate world, there has been a major shift towards understanding that businesses need to be accountable for much more than their bottom line. Corporations that ignore social and environmental factors in their pursuit of profits, do so at their peril. In response to changing notions of corporate responsibility, accountants of the twenty-first century are moving beyond numbers.
For centuries humans have turned resources into profit, with little thought to the eco-systems and species that co-exist with us. But, the public has had enough. Society’s values are changing. In order to survive, businesses have to take responsibility for much broader accountability issues.
Accounting for social, environmental and economic impacts
Today, accounting is about much more than profit and loss. Dr Terese Fiedler has made a career out of accountability in the broader sense. Her role as an accountant is to account for social, environmental and economic impacts. Her role as Lecturer in Accounting is to show her students that accounting is not just about crunching numbers. Accountants can make a difference to more than just a balance sheet.
“Understanding the corporate financial world works well with social and environmental concerns”, explains Dr Fiedler. “Accountants are empathetic to business. We speak the language of business. If we are also empathetic to environmental and social issues, then we often become a bridge. We can help facilitate positive collaborations between groups that traditionally work against each other. By doing this, we can affect change.”
Who would have thought that a big property developer in Northern NSW and the Australian Koala Foundation could collaborate? But, Dr Fiedler worked for both these groups who became stakeholders in a new development. They collaborated with everything and the final result was a development deemed to be successful to both sides. The koalas and their habitat had been accounted for.
“I’ve always had a passion for the environment and a strong sense of social justice”, says Dr Fiedler. “But, I was educated in accounting. I’ve worked in banks and understand the world of business and finance.”
“I’m lucky because I’ve applied my academic and business training, to issues I really care about. I’ve combined these things and made them my career, which means I really love my work.”
The triple bottom line and corporate responsibility
“Commerce doesn’t have to be dry!” explains Dr Fiedler. “Accountants no longer need to specialise in profit and loss accounting. Triple bottom line reporting accounts for social, economic and environmental factors. Accountants are good at collecting and reporting information to stakeholders.
As a lecturer, one of Dr Fiedler’s favourite units revolves around triple bottom line accounting and corporate responsibility.
“I love introducing master’s students to social and environmental accounting, ethics and corporate governance”, says Dr Fiedler. “It is lovely when you see students inspired by this.”
Dr Fiedler’s current research
Dr Fiedler’s current research is in conjunction with the Cygnet Folk Festival Management Committee. It is looking at the impacts the festival has on society and the environment, with a view to making the organisers accountable and the festival sustainable.
“For me, this is my most important collaboration”, says Dr Fiedler. “I love local research. Tasmania has so much to offer and I feel compelled to give back. I love being able to see the people in my community and the direct impact my research has had.”
“Tasmania has the most beautiful environment and I feel passionate about protecting it. To see sustainability initiatives implemented as a result of my research is very special. It gives my work meaning.”
Research that makes a difference
Dr Terese Fiedler is a Lecturer in Accounting in the Tasmanian School of Business and Economics. She has a strong research interest in issues of accountability, including accounting for social capital through cultural events and Indigenous education, corporate social responsibility and reporting. She teaches mainly in financial accounting and has taught and developed units in corporate sustainability.
Terese is a CPA with over 20 years’ experience in teaching accounting. Prior to her appointment at the University of Tasmania, she worked at the Griffith University, Queensland University of Technology and the University of Southern Queensland (USQ).
|PhD||An investigation into environmental collaboration within the building and construction industry||University of Southern Queensland||Australia||2003|
Bachelor of Commerce |
(1st class Honours)
|Native title related disclosures: a pollical cost perspective||Griffith University||Australia||1996|
- CPA Australia
- Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA)
- Secretary for the Tasmanian Sustainability and Governance Network
Terese has taught across all Financial Accounting units, Accounting for Managers (MBA) and Sustainable Business.
Fields of Research
- Accounting, Auditing and Accountability (150199)
- Auditing and Accountability (150102)
- Sustainability Accounting and Reporting (150106)
- Environmentally Sustainable Construction (879899)
- Environmentally Sustainable Commercial Services and Tourism (909899)
- Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society (970116)
- 2020, ‘Supporting a circular economy through taxation’, Australian Taxations Teachers’ Association Conference, Hobart, 22-24 January.
- 2019, 'Can integrated reports have future orientation? The challenge of short-termism', Meditari Accounting Forum Joint Conference, Korea, 25-26 April.
- 2019, 'Can integrated reports have future orientation? The challenge of short-termism', AFAANZ, Brisbane, 8-9 July.
Journal Article(2 outputs)
|2007||Fiedler TA, Deegan C, 'Motivations for environmental collaboration within the building and construction industry', Managerial Auditing Journal, 22, (4) pp. 410-441. ISSN 0268-6902 (2007) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 20
Co-authors: Deegan C
|2002||Fiedler TA, Deegan C, 'Collaboration counts', National Accountant, (April/May) pp. 52-54. ISSN 1039-608X (2002) [Professional, Non Refereed Article]|
Contract Report, Consultant's Report(1 outputs)
|2018||Fiedler T, Wickham M, 'Assessing the economic, social and environmental impacts of the Cygnet Folk Festival 2018', Huon Folk Inc., Hobart (2018) [Consultants Report]|
Co-authors: Wickham M
|2002||Fieder T, 'An investigation into environmental collaborations within the building and construction industry' (2002) [PhD]|
Grants & Funding
2018, ‘Understanding the barriers for access to university accounting education for Tasmanian Aboriginal secondary school students’, Indigenous Student Success Program, Small Faculty Grant, $14,588.
2018, ‘Understanding the barriers for access to university accounting education for Tasmanian Aboriginal secondary school students’, Indigenous Student Success Program, Commonwealth Government Grant, $6,973.76.
2019, ‘Social audits for social capital: The case of the Cygnet Folk Festival’, Small Faculty Grant, $2,924.84.
2019, ‘Supporting a circular economy through taxation’, Small Faculty Grant, $3,325.89
Number of grants
- University of Tasmania ($6,974)
- Administered By
- University of Tasmania
- Research Team
- Fiedler TA
|Honours dissertation||Integrated reports and long-term value creation||2018|
|Master’s dissertation||Voluntary disclosure practice – an examination of Australian company web-sites||2002|