W. Robert Knechel, Frederick E. Fisher Eminent Scholar

Warrington professor serves as founding editor for new academic journal

A new academic journal, Accountability in a Sustainable World Quarterly, aims to build and strengthen the links between academia and practice, encourage younger academics by providing an opportunity to present their work to both other academics and practitioners and provide opportunities for practitioners to communicate with academics and influence their work. 

UF Warrington distinguished professor and Frederick E. Fisher Eminent Scholar W R. Knechel serves as a founding editor of the journal, which is cross-disciplinary with a focus on measurement, assurance of the measurements and use of the measures in the broadest sense.

“The basic idea of the journal is to provide an outlet that bridges academia and the business world, and to discuss these issues of sustainability as we move forward,” said Knechel. 

The journal will look to advance the creation and dissemination of knowledge and understanding of issues of topical practical relevance through the publication of rigorous, peer-reviewed research and thought pieces written by cutting edge academics and practitioners. Features of published papers will be topics related to climate change, environmental, social and corporate governance, corporate social responsibility and sustainability reporting. 

The inaugural issue, published in November of 2022, touched on such subjects as key thoughts from climate scientists, thoughts on impact investing and the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) perspective on climate disclosure.

One article in the journal, written by Stephen Taylor, took a deep dive into the standards for sustainability reporting. “Fundamentally, we know that corporate disclosures are either voluntary, or they reflect mandatory requirements,” said Taylor. “Multiple objectives, multiple interests among different stakeholders, mean that it is going to be hard to work out what the overarching objective really is.”

In issue two of the journal, Knechel penned the cover letter and spoke to the accountability needed in the business world. “Almost all information included in an environmental, social and governance (ESG) report comes from inside a corporate entity. This means that ESG information is subject to the same potential for manipulation and misreporting as information about sales and earnings.”

Knechel directly mentioned “greenwashing,” which involves making an unsubstantiated claim to lead consumers into believing that a company’s products or services are environmentally friendly or have a greater positive environmental impact than they actually do. 

“This risk creates a natural environment to demand assurance that the ESG disclosures are realistic and representative of actual corporate practices,” said Knechel. “As a result, trustworthy third-party assurance has grown rapidly.”

Overall, the journal hopes to bring many issues of accountability to the surface. “Too much of the dialogue that currently exists is political,” said Knechel. “We hope to bring to the table business oriented evidence to drive an academically viable discussion of management issues related to sustainability.”