Editorial Notes Engaging in the SEA Community

Den Patten


I’ve recently returned from St. Andrews,Scotland and the Center for Social andEnvironmental Accounting Research’s(CSEAR) 22nd annual summer congress.It was the third CSEAR-sponsored conferenceI’ve been lucky enough to attendover the last year, following the AustralasianCSEAR in Christchurch, New Zealandlast December, and a much chillierthan hoped for North American meetingin Orlando, Florida in January. AlthoughI am a relative neophyte withrespect to CSEAR-sponsored gettogethers(I attended my first in the summerof 2008), I concede that I’ve becomeaddicted to the events.I’ve always believed that attending, andpresenting, at academic conferences is(or at least ought to be) a valuable professionalexperience. But to be honest,I’d grown increasingly frustrated withthe lack of interesting sessions at theregional and national American AccountingAssociation meetings that werethe mainstay of my conference diet. Theproblem, of course, is that as a socialand environmental accounting (SEA)researcher, I find myself a member of avery small minority of the North American,and even more specifically, the U.S.academic accounting community. Oftenwere the times that at regional meetingsthe only paper with an SEA-related contentwas the one I was presenting.Luckily, and thanks to heavy pressuringfrom colleagues Charles Cho and RobinRoberts, I finally made the effort to attenda CSEAR summer congress, andoffering this with no sense of hyperbole,my life will never be the same. It istruly an exciting experience to be in aroom with 40, or 60, or even as many as100 members of the academic community,all of whom not only know whatSEA research is, but who actually believein it. Beyond the sense of excitement,however, I have found the congressesto be extremely rewarding alonga number of fronts.First, atteujnding the CSEAR congresseshas led to a new appreciation of thebreadth of topics researchers in our areaexplore. At this year’s St. Andrews conference,for example, participants couldchoose from options as traditional associal and environmental disclosureacross a variety of settings to topics asinnovative as charity ethical investingand even criticisms of the perceived conformityin the SEA research agenda. InChristchurch, I sat in on Glen Lehman’smind-challenging theoretical explorationof the natural environment and its implicationsfor SEA, while in Orlando Ilearned of issues associated with accountingfor garbage dumps (landfills).The point I am trying to make here, isthat, while I have spent almost my entirecareer focusing only on issues of social and environmental disclosure in theU.S., the SEA world is full of interesting,challenging, and important issuesbegging for meaningful analysis.Beyond a broadened horizon of “whatâ€to explore, the CSEAR conferences havealso enlightened me with respect to“how†it might be done. I am, and havealways been a quantitative, large-sampleresearcher (after all, I’ve been raised inthe mainstream North American tradition).At the CSEAR meetings, I’vebeen exposed to more qualitative approachesincluding, for example, casestudies and discourse analysis. Andwhile I confess that it seems unlikely Iwill ever pursue such non-quantitativeresearch strategies myself (it’s hard toteach an old dog new tricks), having exposureto them has helped to both bettermy understanding of the underlying issuesI am trying to explore, as well asthe limitations that my broader sampleapproaches suffer from. I’ve gained agreater appreciation of the importancethat multiple methods of research play indeveloping a body of knowledge. Indeed,this seems to be something that themainstream North American researchjournals ought to be exposed to, not onlywith respect to SEA research, but acrossthe entire accounting domain.Finally, and most importantly, however,attending the CSEAR conferences hasfostered in me, for the first time in myacademic career, a belief that I am trulypart of a community. Some of this,without doubt, has been the opportunityto meet face-to-face so many of the stalwartswho have made our area what it is– Rob Gray, David Owen, James Guthrie,Markus Milne, and many others.But equally as rewarding, the congresseshave introduced me to so many of what Iam sure will be the SEA stars of the future.Interacting with “emerging scholarsâ€whether they be Ph.D. students, literallyfrom across the globe, or youngfellows early in their academic careers,has enriched me, not only in terms offriendships, but in the hope that has beeninstilled that our relatively young subdisciplinewill not only survive, but actuallyprosper.In conclusion, journals such as Issues inSocial and Environmental Accountingplay an important role in the disseminationof an increasing body of SEA research,and as evidenced by the broadspectrum of topics explored and approachestaken in the articles included inthis issue, the SEA world is becoming anever wider one. As such, I think it isparticularly important for the newermembers of our SEA community to becomeactive participants in the CSEARworld. I realize that a pilgrimage to thehome base of St. Andrews may not befeasible for many, but the proliferationof the more regional, and thus more accessible,CSEAR conferences continuesto grow (next June, for example, will seethe hosting of the first ever CSEARFrance at Université Paris Dauphine),offering opportunities for learning, forengagement, and for friendship. Andwhile, in spite of my desires, I won’t bemaking it to every CSEAR-sponsoredcongress the future holds, I know I’llattend as many as I feasibly can. Afterall, I’m addicted.

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Issues In Social and Environmental Accounting (ISEA) - ISSN: 1978-0591