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Academics and policy makers at odds: the case of the IFRS Foundation Trustees’ Consultation Paper on Sustainability Reporting

Adams, Carol and Mueller, Frank (2022) 'Academics and policy makers at odds: the case of the IFRS Foundation Trustees’ Consultation Paper on Sustainability Reporting.', Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal .


Purpose: This paper considers the nature of academic engagement with policy and the (lack of) responsiveness by policy makers to the scientific community through the development of the IFRS Foundation Trustees’ Consultation Paper on Sustainability Reporting (IFRS Foundation, 2020). Method: The 577 submissions to the IFRS Foundation consultation were reviewed and 39 identified as being submitted by academics. These 39 included collectively 104 academic signatories from 74 organisations or networks and 20 countries. They were analysed using NVivo. Drawing on the literature on techniques used to discredit or credit arguments we examine the academic responses to the consultation questions particularly those concerning: the role of the IFRS Foundation; perceptions of the ‘investor perspective’; the audience for reporting; the definition of materiality; and a climate first approach. Findings: The majority (72%) of academic submissions were opposed to the IFRS Foundation Trustees’ proposals on key issues. This dissenting majority collectively have substantial research records in sustainability reporting and its outcomes. Those supportive were significantly less likely to reference research or state their credentials and, despite being supportive, nevertheless raised concerns with the proposals. Practical implications: Senior academics undertaking research in the field have engaged, in unusually high numbers, with a policy development they believe will not work and may be counter to achieving sustainable development. Our findings underscore the importance of highlighting the discrediting strategies and tactics employed in this discursive ‘battle’. The findings have implications for the legitimacy of policy makers on sustainability-related initiatives who are not engaging with the relevant scientific community. Social implications: Policy initiatives that are judged as potentially harmful to sustainable development attract more intense, activist and sustained engagement supported by research evidence. Originality/value: The paper identifies the importance of evidence based academic engagement and highlights strategies that engaging academics need to persist over. It highlights the collective view of academics in the field to the IFRS Foundation consultation paper.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0.
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Publisher statement:This article is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial International Licence 4.0 (CC BY-NC 4.0) and any reuse must be in accordance with the terms outlined by the licence.
Date accepted:21 April 2022
Date deposited:05 May 2022
Date of first online publication:17 May 2022
Date first made open access:06 July 2022

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