Traditional financial reporting is often criticized for ignoring some of a company’s most important economic assets and liabilities. On the assets side, mainstream accounting often ignores brands, human resources, intellectual property, supplier and customer relationships, and more generally the goodwill that accrues to a business through its involvement in the wider community. On the liabilities side, accountants tend to ignore many of the risks, or contingent liabilities, posed by deleterious environmental and social policies. This course introduces students to sustainability reporting, a system of analysis and reporting that attempts to bridge some of these gaps and provide a more expansive view of an organization’s social and environmental performance (sometimes called the “triple bottom line”). Through lectures and case studies, we will examine markets for sustainability reporting and metrics that have been developed to supply information to these markets. The class will address socially responsible investing, carbon disclosure initiatives, accounting for legal and environmental liabilities, and the role of intangible assets in long-run performance.
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