Partnerships for the Goals

Living Edition
| Editors: Walter Leal Filho, Anabela Marisa Azul, Luciana Brandli, Pinar Gökcin Özuyar, Tony Wall

Accountability Frameworks for Partnership Toward Sustainability

  • Carol PomareEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-71067-9_5-1

Definitions

  • Accountability Frameworks: Accountability frameworks are related to (i) accountability, which is the ownership of responsibilities combined with the obligation to report on the discharge of those responsibilities, and (ii) framework, which makes roles, responsibilities, and expectations clear to all stakeholders, supporting the availability of reliable and timely monitoring on intended and actual outcomes.

The United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are related to the issue of industrialization and associated consequences in terms of possible biodiversity depletion, worsening of health or living conditions, and climate change, especially in developing countries (United Nations 2017a). In this context, a model of economic growth based on the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources is seen as possibly not viable, and a more sustainable approach to the use of natural resources is advocated for (United Nations 2017a).

The contribution of this entry is to provide a synthesis of the field of research related to accountability frameworks for SDGs in a policy making and business environment. More specifically, this entry seeks to highlight contemporary issues surrounding the engagement of policy makers and businesses in promoting collaboratively the SDGs.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Partnership for the Goals

The first step in understanding accountability frameworks for SDGs consists in (i) defining the SDGs using a multinational approach and a national approach and (ii) describing the role the UN or national stakeholders play in setting up worldwide priorities (United Nations 2017a). For more details in relation to sustainable development, please see Pomare (2015) for the case of Chile, Pomare (2018a) for some applications related to entrepreneurship, Pomare (2018b) for some applications related to responsible managers, and Pomare (in process) for a review of litterature.

For Stafford-Smith et al. (2017), as an accountability framework, the SDGs extend the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in many ways, but particularly in seeking to link the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) aspects to economic aspects through the SDG17 (Pomare, 2018a). This perspective relies on interlinkages across time to ensure that the short-term achievements of improved human well-being do not occur at the cost of undermining human well-being in the long term (Stafford-Smith et al. 2017). In other words, this perspective implies that sustainable development is a type of development that meets the needs of the present generations without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their needs (Brundtland Report, World Commission on Environment & Development, WCED 1987).

In this context, a lesson from the MDGs was that individual UN agencies were believed to implement specific  targets with limited regard for other (i.e., particularly environmental) targets and accountability frameworks (Stafford-Smith et al. 2017). At a multinational level, a significant policy innovation with the SDGs was the creation of the UN’s High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), which was to meet annually at the ministerial level and every 4th year at the heads of state level (Stafford-Smith et al. 2017). At a national level, the implementation of the SDGs was to depend on the alignment and integration between national targets, strategies, and plans for implementation, as well as on local delivery programs (Stafford-Smith et al. 2017). These two overarching levels are critical to producing true policy coherence or salient cues and linkages across sectors (Pomare, in process).

This section is focused on SDGs and on multinational and national partnerships for the SDGs.

Multinational Accountability Framework

Understanding accountability frameworks for the SDGs consists in defining SDGs using a multinational approach and describing the role the UN plays in setting up worldwide priorities for 2030 (United Nations 2017a). For more details, please see Pomare (2018a) and Pomare (in process).

For the UN, human well-being is based on sustainable development, which is based on sustainable consumption and production that promotes exploitation of natural resources efficiently around the world (United Nations 2017a).

First, when focusing on water, it is advocated that less than 3% of the world’s water is fresh (i.e., drinkable water) of which 2.5% is frozen in the Antarctic or in the Arctic. Therefore, humanity is believed to rely on 0.5% of all its ecosystems for fresh water (United Nations 2017a).

Second, when focusing on food, it is advocated that while substantial environmental damage occurs in the production phase of food (e.g., agriculture, food processing), households also have a negative impact through possibly unsustainable dietary habits (e.g., mostly meat-based diet as opposed to mostly plant-based diet). Also, one third of all the produced food, equivalent to 1.3 billion tons (i.e., possibly worth around $1 trillion), is estimated to end up in waste bins or spoiled due to poor practices in transportation or harvest (United Nations 2017a). This, consequently, affects the environment through food-related energy consumption and/or waste generation (United Nations 2017a).

Third, when focusing on energy, it is advocated that despite technological advances to promote energy efficiency, unsustainable energy use in the Organizations for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries will continue to grow 35% by 2020. As well, commercial and residential unsustainable energy use is described as the second most rapidly growing area of global energy use after transportation (United Nations 2017a).

For the UN, sustainable consumption and production is to be implemented within a 10-year framework, with developed countries taking the lead and helping developing countries (United Nations 2017a).

First, when focusing on water and food, the goal for the UN is to halve the per capita global water and food waste at the retail and consumer levels by 2030, as well as to reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses by 2030 (United Nations 2017a), and substantially reduce water waste through prevention, reduction, recycling, and reuse by 2030 (United Nations 2017a).

Second, when focusing on energy, the goal for the UN is to achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources by 2030 (United Nations 2017a) and to achieve an environmentally sound management of chemicals wastes throughout life cycle, in accordance with agreed international and national regulatory frameworks, as well as significantly reduce release to air, water, and soil in order to minimize adverse impacts on human health and on the environment (United Nations 2017a).

This information provided by the UN is believed to be pivotal in addressing the current global economic and social challenges facing individuals internationally and nationally, for example, when economic growth is limited, because of scarce natural resources or increasing inequalities in some countries (United Nations 2017a). Therefore, to face these challenges, the goal of SDG17 “Partnership for the Goals” is to focus on the way the world is interconnected and the way to improve access to knowledge and interlinkages to foster sustainable development (United Nations 2017a). The goal of SDG17 “Partnership for the Goals” is to strengthen the means of sustainable development with multi-stakeholder partnerships that share knowledge, expertise, technology, and financial resources, to support the achievement of the SDGs in all countries, in particular developing countries (United Nations 2017a). A series of indicators by targets are associated with SDG17 “Partnership for the Goals,” with a focus on finance, technology, capacity building, trade, policy and institutional coherence, multi-stakeholder partnerships, data monitoring, and accountability frameworks. More specifically, SDG17.16.’s goal is to enhance the global partnership for sustainable development, complemented by multi-stakeholder partnerships, with (i) indicators like the number of countries reporting progress in multi-stakeholders development effectiveness, monitoring and accountability frameworks and (ii) indicators like the availability of high-quality, timely, and reliable data on sustainable development as per accountability frameworks (United Nations 2017a). As such, high-quality data and statistics that are disaggregated by relevant population groups are essential for key stakeholders to make effective decisions. In this context, accountability frameworks help (i) achieve overall development plans; (ii) reduce future environmental, social, and governance (ESG) costs and economic costs; and (iii) strengthen economic competitiveness to reduce poverty (United Nations 2017a). For more details on accountability and regulation, please see Pomare and Lont (in process a and b) and well as Pomare (in process).

As a summary, a network of multinational stakeholders contribute to the accountability framework for SDGs supporting different countries to strengthen their capacity to move toward more sustainable patterns (United Nations 2017a). Accountability frameworks for sustainable development are also promoted by a wide range of stakeholders in the public and private sector in order to foster economic growth through innovative ways at the national level (United Nations 2017a). This leads to the next section.

National Accountability Framework

Understanding accountability frameworks for SDGs consists in defining SDGs using a national approach (e.g., public national and local policy makers or public and private corporations) and describing the role national stakeholders play in following worldwide priorities for 2030 within their own countries (United Nations 2017a). For more details, please see Pomare (2018a) and Pomare (in process).

On the one hand, a network of national stakeholders develops and implements tools to monitor sustainable development within their own countries from the viewpoint of national policy makers (United Nations 2017a). National stakeholders impact various areas of life by promoting public practices that are sustainable in accordance with multinational priorities (United Nations 2017a). For example, national stakeholders help rationalize inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption: (i) by removing market distortions in line with their own national circumstances, including restructuring taxation and phasing out harmful subsidies (United Nations 2017a), and (ii) by taking into account the specific needs of their nation to minimize any possible adverse economic impact of the multinational SDGs (United Nations 2017a). As well, a network of national stakeholders develops and implements tools to monitor sustainable development within their own countries from the viewpoint of local policy makers (United Nations 2017a). More than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase up to 66% by 2050 (United Nations 2017a). As such, local stakeholders are largely urban stakeholders. Smart cities are cities where innovation in sustainability and ecological design creates a responsible and clean experience for its citizens with a wise management of natural resources (United Nations 2017a). A network of smart cities is a necessary tool for the promotion of sustainability locally (United Nations 2017a). For more details, please see Pomare (2018a) and Pomare (in process).

On the other hand, a network of national stakeholders develops and implements tools to monitor sustainable development within their own countries from the viewpoint of public and private corporations (United Nations 2017a). National stakeholders impact various areas by promoting business practices that are sustainable in accordance with multinational priorities (United Nations 2017a). For Wichaisri and Sopadang (2018), sustainable development is defined as meeting the needs of a corporation’s direct and indirect stakeholders without compromising its ability to meet the needs of future shareholders (Brundtland Report, WCED 1987). From the business perspective, the three pillars of sustainable development are economic, environmental, and social pillars which are referred to as the triple bottom line (TBL). The TBL is a sustainable concept applied to public and private corporations that balances economic (i.e., shareholders value), social, and environmental (i.e., stakeholders value) performances to create value for businesses (i.e., for a review, see Wichaisri and Sopadang 2018). The TBL relies on stakeholders’ engagement, in terms of the environment (Ketola 1997), or the impacts on employees, customers, suppliers, and communities (i.e., for a review, see Wichaisri and Sopadang 2018; Boele et al. 2001). Since sustainable development has long-term economic benefits for businesses (i.e., shareholders’ value), a growing number of public and private corporations consider their environmental and social impact (i.e., stakeholders’ value) in order to sustain long-term economic benefits (Wichaisri and Sopadang 2018). For more details, please see Pomare (2018a) and Pomare (in process).

As a summary, a network of national stakeholders contribute to the accountability framework for SDGs supporting different countries to strengthen their capacity to move toward more sustainable patterns (United Nations 2017a). Accountability frameworks for sustainable development have a series of strengths and weaknesses, however. This leads to the next section.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Accountability Framework

Understanding accountability frameworks for sustainable development consists in focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of the accountability frameworks when setting up worldwide priorities for 2030 within their own countries (United Nations 2017a).

On the one hand, the UN SDGs are a major achievement, as the SDGs have been agreed to by most UN member states and they focus on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) targets and economic targets. For more details on ESG factors and investing strategies, please see Pomare (2018c and d) and Pomare (in process).

First, for Engelbretsen et al. (2017), the SDGs were developed through a highly consultative and iterative process that included multiple meetings with expert groups, civil society, and governments.

Second, for Wichaisri and Sopadang (2018), when looking at keywords in titles, abstracts, and full papers related to the SDGs, it was observed that three key sustainable dimensions (i.e., economic, environment, and social) were well represented. From 1995 to 2015, most SDGs’ research concentrated on the economic dimension (Wichaisri and Sopadang 2018). From 2011 to 2015, most SDGs’ research focused on the three dimensions (i.e., economic, environment, and social factors) with leaner managerial strategies being applied to the manufacturing industry (Wichaisri and Sopadang 2018).

On the other hand, the UN SDGs are a major achievement that may not have a clear path to implementation in terms of an accountability framework.

First, for Engebretsen et al. (2017), the process of developing the SDGs and associated targets has not been without its critics. In both academic and media settings, critics have been focusing on the SDGs list and their reported lack of realistic and measurable outcomes (Engebretsen et al. 2017).

Second, for Costanza et al. (2016), the SDGs lack an overarching goal and an effective aggregate indicator of progress toward SDGs. One may argue that such an aggregate indicator is not necessary and that the pursuit of individual goals is sufficient to achieve sustainable development. However, for Costanza et al. (2016), the implementation of the SDGs agenda requires a strong commitment to accountability. The SDGs need an overarching goal with clear metrics of progress that are geared to integrate all sub-goals (Costanza et al. 2016). Conventional measures of national progress for SDGs, like the gross domestic product (GDP), are based on production and consumption of goods and services exchanged in markets, and GDP was not designed as a measure of societal well-being (Costanza et al. 2016). Conventional measures of national progress for SDGs, like an aggregation of all of the SDGs indicators into a unit-less index of 200–300 SDG indicators, lead to the unresolved question of how to weight the different indicators’ impact into the index (Costanza et al. 2016). Conventional measures of national progress for SDGs, like the contribution to subjective well-being through life satisfaction scores or World Happiness Reports (for a review, see Costanza et al. 2016) developed on the basis of regressions of life satisfaction scores against a range of independent variables, only explained 73% of variations across countries (Costanza et al. 2016). Therefore, the question remains as to what hybrid indicator may be used to issue a comprehensive system and dynamic model of (i) net economic contributions, (ii) natural capital or ecosystem services contributions; and (iii) social capital or community contributions (i.e., economic, environment and social factors) (for a review, please see Costanza et al. 2016). In order to answer this question, one needs to develop a framework of policy reforms and societal change that makes the achievement of the SDGs possible at both the multinational and national level (Costanza et al. 2016).

As a summary, a network of multinational and national stakeholders contribute to the accountability framework for sustainable development supporting different countries to strengthen their capacity to move toward more sustainable patterns (United Nations 2017a). Accountability frameworks for sustainable development are, as such, promoted by a wide range of stakeholders in the public and private sector (United Nations 2017a). However, the success of accountability frameworks for sustainability in a national public and private sector is uncertain, as what may be described as procrastination in tackling global challenges from the public sector (e.g., counter-pressure from taxpayers and/or electors for national governments) or the private sector (e.g., counter-pressure from shareholders to focus on profit as opposed SDGs) may sometimes result in drawbacks (United Nations 2017a). This leads to the next section.

Challenges and Opportunities for Accountability Frameworks

The second step in understanding accountability frameworks for SDGs is to explore the challenges and opportunities related to existing accountability frameworks focusing on sustainable consumption and production patterns. For more details in relation to sustainable development, please see Pomare (2015) for the case of Chile, Pomare (2018a) for some applications related to entrepreneurship, Pomare (2018b) for some applications related to responsible managers, and Pomare (in process) for a review of litterature.

By definition, future risks and returns related to SDGs are ambiguous and uncertain, which means that ethical paradoxes may arise when one generation is asked to limit their potential for immediate rewards (i.e., ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns) in order to give the future generations the possibility to get some future rewards, as well (i.e., meet the needs of the present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs) (Brundtland Report, WCED 1987). This is related to a fundamental principle of distributive justice as opposed to self-interest that may impact most decision-makers’ actions (e.g., policy makers, management of public and private corporations, etc.).

Therefore, the existing accountability frameworks for SDGs may face psychological and economic motives of self-interest and sticky anchors (i.e., situational salient cues), which may be counterproductive in the application of the distributive justice principles underlying SDGs. As a consequence, salient cues of distributive justice may need to be reinforced through parallel accountability frameworks in policy making and accounting standard setting to reduce self-interest motives and sticky anchors.

The focus of this section is on the challenges and opportunities for a culture of accountability for the SDGs, with multiple actors like policy makers and professional accountants that may enhance the strength of the accountability framework for SDGs through more open and more transparent review of actions in parallel accountability frameworks.

Challenges to Accountability Frameworks

Understanding accountability frameworks for SDGs consists in identifying challenges in terms of self-interest or sticky anchors and their impact on most decision-makers (e.g., policy makers, management of public and private companies, etc.). For details on some applications related to responsible managers, please see Pomare (2018b).

In terms of the psychological motives, the key for decision-making in line with distributive justice as opposed to self-interest may be self-control (for a review, see Banker et al. 2017). When decision-makers use self-control as a basis for their decisions as opposed to primitive impulses, decision-makers are believed to become more able to overcome their natural tendency to be selfish if pressured to focus on distributive justive. Interestingly, abundant literature indicates that self-regulation functions as if dependent on a limited cognitive resource, which means that after an initial act of self-control, subsequent acts of self-control tend to diminish (for a review, see 2017 Banker et al. 2017).

A first model states that self-control may enable humans to overcome their natural innate motive of selfishness (Banker et al. 2017) and to follow rules that enable society to function (e.g., do what is best for the group as opposed to what is best only for the individual). As such, self-control is like a “moral muscle” with a set of society rules that curb selfishness in favor of others. Research shows that depleted people as compared to non-depleted people: (i) act more on impulses; (ii) score higher on narcissism, a state characterized by inflated self-views and a strong sense of entitlement; (iii) show heightened willingness to lie and cheat in order to acquire money;  and (iv) have a decreased concern for others (for a review, see Banker et al. 2017).

A second model states that ego depletion may weaken central executive control, thereby increasing susceptibility to  salient cues from the environment (Banker et al. 2017). Those cues from the environment serve as sticky anchors for the decision-making process, most of all when the ego is depleted. Research shows that depleted people as compared to non-depleted people: (i) buy more and eat more depending on social cues (i.e., respond more to salient cues to eat and spend); (ii) engage more in both good and bad habits depending on social cues and (iii) engage less or more in socially desirable behavior when cues regarding the interpersonal impact of one’s actions are not or are made salient (for a review, see Banker et al. 2017).

As such, the selfishness model holds that ego depletion increases self-serving behaviors per see, including doing what benefits the self even at the expense of others (Banker et al. 2017). However, the sticky anchor model shows that ego depletion may not increase self-serving behaviors per see, but that ego depletion may intensify the effects of external cues (i.e., sticky anchors) on behaviors whether these salient cues are in favor of selfishness or in favor of distributive justice (Banker et al. 2017).

In terms of the economic motives, some have explored distributive justice as opposed to self-interest: (i) in the context of climate change, to infer a felicity function (i.e., the utility for a given household member of sustainable consumption and production patterns at any given point in time) of the choices today’s generations make to help the generations of the future (Dasgupta 2008), or (ii) in the context of cost behavior for corporations, to understand the choices today’s managers make in relation to the costs of the future (Banker and Byzalov 2014).

On the one hand, in terms of the economics of climate change, discount rates are related to the present value of a present action (e.g., ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns today) where the actors (e.g., today’s generations) discount the future value of this actions’ future consequences (e.g., future benefits to future’s generations at a cost to today’s generations). In this context, as well, social discount rates are derived from economic forecasts and society’s conception of distributive justice, when it comes to the allocation of goods and services across personal identities, time and events, and above and beyond the motive of self-interest today (Dasgupta 2008).

First, economists support the idea that all human beings, and by extension all decision-makers, are selfish which means that their decisions are always motivated by self-interest (Dasgupta 2008). The hypothesis of self-interest has been successful in providing accurate predictions in most economic domains (Dasgupta 2008). Most human beings behaved selfishly, even when they are given a chance to affect other people’s well-being at a relatively low cost (Dasgupta 2008).

Second, an important insight provided by some of the newly developed models of fairness is that the self-interest model is accurate, mostly in competitive environments with standardized goods and services (Dasgupta 2008). In other less competitive environments, however, human beings are more motivated by fairness and reciprocity and are more willing to reward other human beings at a cost to themselves (Dasgupta 2008).

As such, in some competitive environments, most human beings behave more selfishly, while in some less competitive environments, most human beings behave more fairly (Dasgupta 2008).

On the other hand, in terms of public and private corporations, Banker and Byzalov (2014) demonstrate that while traditional cost behavior models expect a mechanistic relation between sales and costs, an alternative view recognizes the primitives of a cost behavior that are related to “sticky” and “anti-sticky” costs alongside traditional “fixed” and “variable” costs. Indeed, Banker and Byzalov (2014) show that some costs behave asymmetrically (i.e., contrary to the traditional model where higher sales are associated with higher costs) falling less in response to sales decreases than they rise for equivalent sales increases (i.e., “sticky costs”). One explanation for sticky costs is that  sticky costs may arise because of deliberate past resource commitment decisions from managers (i.e., past sticky anchors) (Banker and Byzalov 2014).

As such, external salient cues of competitiveness or past behaviors (i.e., sticky anchors) have an impact on decisions in an economic or business context.

As a summary, the above development is important for the accountability framework of the SDGs, as it demonstrates the importance of repeated salient cues in society in favor of distributive justice within a less competitive framework and with a focus on avoiding past sticky anchors (i.e., meeting the needs of the present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs) (Brundtland Report, WCED 1987). This leads to the next section.

Opportunities for the Accountability Frameworks

Understanding accountability frameworks for SDGs consists in identifying opportunities in terms of salient cues that support distributive justice and its impact on decision-makers (e.g., policy makers, management of public and private companies, etc.).

Opportunities in Public Accountability Frameworks

Understanding accountability frameworks for SDGs consists in defining opportunities to offer salient external cues in favor of SDGs for decision-makers in the public sector. For details, see Pomare, Lont and Griffin (in process) and Pomare and Lont (in process a and b).

On the one hand, salient cues in favor of distributive justice in policy making (i.e., meeting the needs of the present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs; Brundtland Report, WCED 1987) are associated with sectors and actors through strong multinational and national oversights of accountability frameworks (i.e., public accountability framework) not directly related but indirectly supportive of the SDGs (Stafford-Smith et al. 2017). For Ratnatunga et al. (2011), governments adjust to pressures for sustainable development through many multinational and national oversights of integrated parallel accountability frameworks.

First, the Kyoto Protocol outlined various accountability frameworks for reducing global carbon emissions (Ratnatunga et al. 2011) that included a proposal to establish an international emissions trading scheme (ETS) whereby countries could trade carbon credits in international carbon credit markets. In such a scheme, countries with surplus credits could sell credits to countries with quantified emission limitations and reduction commitments under the Kyoto Protocol (Ratnatunga et al. 2011).

Second, the Copenhagen Climate Summit attempted to establish a legally binding global climate accountability framework starting in 2012, when the first commitment period under Kyoto expired (Ratnatunga et al. 2011).

Third, some believe that in the face of escalating effects of climate change, 2015 was a tipping point with international negotiations among more than 190 nations concerning carbon emission regulations (Stanley 2015). The Paris Agreement entered into force after the date on which at least 55 parties to the Convention deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession with a depositary under a stringent accountability framework (Ratnatunga et al. 2011).

On the other hand, salient cues against distributive justice in policy making (i.e., meeting the needs of the present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs; Brundtland Report, WCED 1987) also started to appear with a possible gap between public opinions and policy makers (Fahey and Pralle 2016). For example, Dolsak and Prakash (2016) discuss the political risks related to the 2016 presidential elections in the USA and the possible consequences in terms of different protocols. The 2016 presidential elections in the USA may have represented a political risk for SDGs with possible long-term implications that still need to be fully assessed. According to the World Economic Prospects (2016), despite initial predictions of market doom following the 2016 presidential election in the USA, the Dow Jones repeatedly set all-time highs for a while. The 2016 presidential election in the USA, however, added to the uncertainty about the global economic outlooks with fears of upcoming downturns.

First, tariffs were imposed on other countries imports which triggered retaliatory actions and may undermine business confidence.

Second, and in relation to SDGs, US energy policy may have changed to be more supportive of fossil fuels and coal with the appointment of self-proclamed climate sceptics in the US government and associated changes in policy and commitments to climate change agreements (Dolsak and Prakash 2016).

Opportunities in Corporate Accountability Frameworks

Understanding accountability frameworks for SDGs consists in defining opportunities to offer salient external cues in favor of SDGs for decision-makers in the corporate sector. For details, see Pomare, Lont and Griffin (in process) and Pomare and Lont (in process a and b).

For Simnett and Huggins (2015), increasing social awareness of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues has contributed to the transformation of the way business is conducted. Because of the usefulness of corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports, shareholders have demanded transparency and questioned the reliability of CSR reporting (i.e., for a review, please see Simmett and Huggins, 2015). In response, corporations have begun to voluntarily provide external independent assurance of corporate social responsibility reporting conducted by a third party to improve credibility (Simnett and Huggins 2015). CSR reports have been important instruments for corporation in establishing transparent communication with their shareholder (i.e., corporate accountability framework), especially with regard to their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance (i.e., for a review, please see Simmett and Huggins, 2015).

For Simnett and Huggins (2015), however, in contrast to financial accounting, stand-alone CSR reporting and its evaluation by a third party are still voluntary in most countries (Simnett and Huggins 2015). As such, management has extensive discretion in the portrayal of their CSR. Hence, each individual company can determine the quality of its CSR reports and selectively modify their information value according to its information policy (Simnett and Huggins 2015).

As a consequence, the domain of CSR needs to include the participation of three distinct groups: (i) the professional accountants (i.e., big four and other professional audit firms), (ii) the consultants, and (iii) the internal auditors (Simnett et al. 2009a).

First, professional accountants, especially big four audit firms, are believed to be independent and highly reputable and can guarantee high-quality assurance procedures (Simnett et al. 2009a). In a related vein, although standards continue to evolve, having a clear understanding of today’s expectations and producing reliable information around sustainable performance is advocated to be priorities for emission-intensive companies in the USA (for example, Ernest and Young, 2016).

Second, when managers lack subject expertise, assurance standards outline the process for the involvement of individual experts to assist during CSR engagements (Simnett 2012). In this context, corporations may engage external CSR consultants to provide assurance (Simnett et al. 2009a).

Third, internal auditors may be an important source of assurance within a firm’s corporate governance system (Simnett et al. 2009b). The assurance of CSR reports is predicted to be one of the most significantly increasing activities of internal auditors in the near future.

As a consequence, as well, the need to improve CSR has increasingly motivated accounting standard setters to consider more stringent environmental regulations and standards to support a more stringent accountability framework (Simnett et al. 2009a). For example, there are three major issues that are being scrutinized by professional accountants and/or auditors in relation to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: (i) the valuation and reporting of GHG emission permits, (ii) the measurement of tangible and intangible assets capable of creating GHG emission, and (iii) the reporting of how a company is meeting its environmental and social responsibilities (Jones and Belkaoui 2009).

First, with regard to the valuation and reporting of GHG emission permits, varying accounting practices have emerged (Ernest and Young 2016). For example, under an inventory accounting model, emissions credits are measured at a weighted-average cost, whereas under the liability and gain recognition accounting model, the entity does not record an obligation to deliver emissions credits to the regulatory agency until the actual level of emissions for a given period exceeds the credits held on the balance sheet (Ernest and Young 2016).

Second, with regard to the measurement of tangible and intangible assets capable of creating GHG emission, the cap-and-trade approach remains the preferred political and economic approach to reducing carbon emissions in many countries (Ratnatunga et al. 2011).

Third, with regard to the reporting of environmental and social responsibilities, many emission-intensive companies are quantifying their GHG emissions for internal management purposes and for external management purposes. In terms of internal factors related to GHG emission assurance, some observed that carbon reduction programs and corporate emissions reporting had expanded rapidly across emission-intensive companies in response to climate change and global warming (Ratnatunga et al. 2011).

In terms of external factors related to GHG emission assurance engagements, Green and Zhou (2013) observed that the demand for assurance services was mainly fund in Europe and emission-intensive industries, with a majority of these engaging specialist assurers. Martinov-Bennie and Hoffman (2012) showed an increase in the accounting profession’s influence in this internal process.

In terms of external factors related to GHG emission assurance, external disclosures were (i) published as a stand-alone document, (ii) included as part of a broader sustainability report or in an emission-intensive company’s annual report, or (iii) made to support inclusion in a “carbon register.”

Currently, the accountability framework of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the accountability framework of the AA1000 Series of Standards may be the most commonly used guidelines for the preparation of a stand-alone CSR reports (Simnett et al. 2009b; Simnett 2012). In addition to its increased significance in business practice, this topic has also been a focal point of recent empirical CSR research. At its December 2007 meeting, the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB) reportedly approved a project to consider the development of a standard aimed at promoting trust and confidence in external disclosures of GHG emissions, including disclosures required under emissions trading schemes (Simnett et al. 2009a; Simnett 2012). For details, see Pomare, Lont and Griffin (in process) and Pomare and Lont (in process a and b).

As a summary, the above developments are important for the accountability framework of the SDGs, as these demonstrate the importance of parallel accountability frameworks and repeated salient cues in society in favor of distributive justice (i.e., meeting the needs of the present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs) (Brundtland Report, WCED 1987).

Conclusions

The entry was organized the following way: (i) section “Definitions” focused on the SDGs and on multinational and national partnerships for the SDGs; and (ii) section “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Partnership for the Goals” focused on accountability frameworks in terms of opportunities and challenges. This section concludes the entry.

By definition, future risks and returns related to the SDGs are ambiguous and uncertain, which means that ethical paradoxes may arise when one generation is asked to limit their potential for immediate rewards (i.e., ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns) in order to give the future generations, the possibility to get some future rewards as well. This paradox is related to a fundamental principle of distributive justice as opposed to self-interest that may impact some decision-makers’ actions (e.g., policy makers, management of public and private corporations, etc.).

The research on accountability framework for the SDGs was presented to identify a network of multinational and national stakeholders (i.e., focus on partnerships for SDG17) that contribute to the accountability framework for SDGs in supporting different stakeholders in their effort to move toward more sustainable patterns of consumption and production (United Nations 2017a).

This research supports the notion that situational cues, are important to strengthen accountability frameworks based on the principle of distributive justice. Thus, situational cues related to parallel accountability frameworks, like parallel policies and accounting standards, indirectly support SDGs. This field of research was briefly presented to identify opportunities and challenges for the SDGs to improve accountability frameworks.

Disclaimer

Although the author and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in this book was correct at press time, the author and publisher do not assume liability and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, or copyright issue, or injury to a person or a company or a group of companies’s reputations, whether such errors or omissions, copyright issues, defamation or libel claim result from negligence, accident, or any other cause.

Cross-References

Notes

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank the Canadian Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) and the Canadian Academic Accounting Association (CAAA) for their joint financial support through a Financial Accounting Research Grant. I would also like to thank the Marjorie Young Bell Faculty Fellowship for financial support.

References

  1. Banker RD, Byzalov D (2014) Asymmetric cost behavior. J Manag Acc Res: Fall. 2014 26(2):43–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Banker S, Ainsworth SE, Baumeister R, Ariely D, Vohs KD (2017) The sticky anchor hypothesis: ego depletion increases susceptibility to situational cues. J Behav Dec Making 30:1027–1040.  https://doi.org/10.1002/bdm.2022CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boele R, Fabig H, Wheeler D (2001) Shell, Nigeria and the Ogoni. A study in unsustainable development: II. Corporate social responsibility and ‘stakeholder management’ versus a rights-based approach to sustainable development. Sustain Dev 9(3):121–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brundtland G (1987) Our common future: report of the 1987 world commission on environment and development. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  5. Costanza R, Daly L, Fioramonti L, Giovannini E, Kubiszewski I, Mortensen L, Pickett K, Ragnarsdottir K, De Vogli R, Wilkinson R (2016) Modelling and measuring sustainable wellbeing in connection with the UN sustainable development goals. Ecol Econ 130:350–355CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dasgupta P (2008) Discounting climate change. J Risk Uncertain 37:141–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dolsak N, Prakash A (2016) The US environmental movement needs a new message. The conversation. Retrieved from: http://theconversation.com/the-us-environmental-movement-needs-a-new-message-70247
  8. Engebretsen E, Heggen E, Ottersen K (2017) The sustainable development goals: ambiguities of accountability. Lancet 389:360–365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fahey BK, Pralle SB (2016) Governing complexity: recent developments in environmental politics and policy. Policy Study J 44:28–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gailliot MT, Baumeister RF (2007) Self-regulation and sexual restraint: dispositionally and temporarily poor selfregulatory abilities contribute to failures at restraining sexual behavior. Personal Soc Psychol Bull 33:173–186.  https://doi.org/10.1177/014616720623472CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Green W, Zhou S (2013) An international examination of assurance practices on carbon emissions disclosures. Aust Account Rev 23:54–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hawley J (2015) Carbon risks and investment implications. Insight 360. Retrieved from: https://www.insight360.io/carbon-risk-implications/
  13. International Energy Agency (2016) World energy outlook 2016 sees broad transformations in the global energy landscape. Retrieved from: http://www.iea.org/newsroom/news/2016/november/world-energy-outlook-2016.html
  14. Jones S, Belkaoui A (2009) Financial accounting theory. Cengage Learning AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  15. Ketola T (1997) A map of Neverland: the role of policy in strategic environmental management. Bus Strateg Environ 6(1):18–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Martinov-Bennie N, Hoffman R (2012) Greenhouse gas and energy audits under the newly legislated Australian audit determination: perceptions of initial impact. Aust Account Rev 22:195–207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Otgaar H, Alberts H, Cuppens L (2012) How cognitive resources alter our perception of the past: ego depletion enhances the susceptibility to suggestion. Appl Cogn Psychol 26(1):159–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Pawłowski A (2007) How many dimensions does sustainable development have? Sustain Dev 16(2):81–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Pomare C (2015) A corporate social responsibility and sustainable development: The case of Chile. In: Vajpeyi D, Oberoi K (eds) Corporate social responsibility and sustainable development in emerging economies. LexingtonGoogle Scholar
  20. Pomare C (2018a) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and entrepreneurship: Opportunities and challenges for enterprises contributing to the SDGs. In: Apostolopoulos N, Al-Dajani H, Holt D, Jones P, Newbery R (eds), Contemporary issues in entrepreneurship research, Emerald SeriesGoogle Scholar
  21. Pomare C (2018b) Responsible managers and responsible management education. In: Christopher E (ed) Meeting expectations in management education social and environmental pressures on managerial behavior. Palgrave Macmillan, SpringerGoogle Scholar
  22. Pomare C (2018c) Responsible investing and environmental economics. In: Dhiman S, Marques J (eds) Handbook of engaged sustainability. Meteor, SpringerGoogle Scholar
  23. Pomare C (2018d) Socially responsible investing. Continuing education course and presentation at the 2018 Annual Conference of the Canadian. Institute of Financial Planning, Continuing Education for Certified Financial Planners (CFP), Halifax, Canada.Google Scholar
  24. Pomare C, Lont D, Griffin P (In process) The market relevance of Greenhouse Gas Emission disclosures by Canadian firms. Working paper. Mount Allison University, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  25. Pomare C, Lont DH (In process a) Transition to a sustainable economy: Accounting for societal and organizational domains of sustainability. Working paper. Mount Allison University, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  26. Pomare C, Lont DH (In process b) Environmental policy and legislation: An economic perspective. In: Walker T, Sprung N, Barabanov S (eds) Environmental policy and legislation: An economic perspective. Wiley Blackwell.Google Scholar
  27. Ratnatunga J, Jones S, Balachandran KR (2011) The valuation and reporting of organizational capability in carbon emissions management. Account Horiz 25(1):127–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Santiteerakul S, Sekhari A, Bouras A, Sopadang A (2015) Sustainability performance measurement framework for supply chain management. Int J Prod Dev 20(3):221–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Seuring SA, Koplin J, Behrens T, Schneidewind U (2003) Sustainability assessment in the German detergent industry: from stakeholder involvement to sustainability indicators. Sustain Dev 11(4):199–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Simnett R (2012) Assurance of sustainability reports. Revision of ISAE 3000 and associated research opportunities. Sustain Account Manag Policy J 3:89–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Simnett R (2014) Assurance of environmental, social and sustainability information. In: Hay D, Knechel R, Willekens M (eds) The Routledge companion to auditing, Routledge, pp 325–337Google Scholar
  32. Simnett R, Huggins AL (2015) Integrated reporting and assurance: where can research add value? Sustain Account Manag Policy J 6:29–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Simnett R, Nugent M, Huggins AL (2009a) Developing an international assurance standard on greenhouse gas statements. Account Horiz 23(4):347–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Simnett R, Vanstraelen A, Chua WF (2009b) Assurance on sustainability reports: an international comparison. Account Rev 84(3):937–967CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Stafford-Smith M, Griggs D, Gaffney O (2017) Integration: the key to implementing the sustainable development goals. Sustain Sci 12(6):11–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Stanley M (2015) The investors guide to climate change. Morgan Stanley & Co LLC. Retrieved from: https://www.morganstanley.com/articles/the-investor-s-guide-to-climate-change
  37. United Nations (2017a) Sustainable Development Goals. | UN DESA | United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/
  38. United Nations (2017b) World’s population increasingly urban with more than half living in urban areas | UN DESA | United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.world-urbanization-prospects-2014.html
  39. Velte P, Stawinoga M (2017) Empirical research on corporate social responsibility assurance (CSRA): a literature review. J Bus Econ 87(8):1017–1066CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wichaisri S, Sopadang A (2018) Trends and future directions in sustainable development. Sustain Dev 26(1):1–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. World Economic Prospects (2016) Economic Outlook, 40:1–33Google Scholar
  42. Wouters J, Bijlmakers S, Hachez N, Lievens M, Marx A (2013) Global monitoring and accountability frameworks for sustainability and democratic legitimacy: a bottom-up approach. Innov Eur J Soc Sci Res 26(3):197–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ron Joyce Center for Business StudiesMount Allison UniversitySackvilleCanada

Section editors and affiliations

  • Monica Thiel
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Public Administration and School of Business AdministrationUniversity of International Business and Economics & China University of PetroleumBeijingChina