Empathy, Closeness and Distance in NPOs Accountability

  • Wed 1 Nov 17

    14:00 - 16:00

  • Colchester Campus


  • Event speaker

    Dr Ericka Costa

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars
    Essex Accounting Centre

  • Event organiser

    Essex Business School

Essex Accounting Centre is delighted to welcome Dr Ericka Costa to our weekly research seminar series to present her paper, titled 'Empathy, Closeness and Distance in NPOs Accountability'.

Event abstract

Drawing from the phenomenological concepts of empathy and communal emotions developed by Edith Stein (1917, 1922), this paper discusses the co-existence of both legitimacy and accountability perspectives in delivering SER voluntary disclosure on the basis on different “levels of empathy” (Stein, 1917) toward different stakeholders. The paper adopts an interpretive research design founded in the concept of empathy (Stein, 1917, 1922) by using a mixed-method approach. A manual content analysis on 393 cooperative banks’ social and environmental reports from 2005 to 2013 in Italy and 14 semi-structured interviews have been performed. The results show that the cooperative banks voluntarily disclose differently toward different stakeholders. The phenomenological concept of empathy developed by Stein (1917) and its understanding within the communal experience like institutions (Stein, 1922) assist the interpretation of these multiple-perspective within the unique SER. Therefore, when the process of acquiring knowledge in the CB-stakeholder relationship is complete and mentalised (Level 3, re-enactive) the SER voluntary disclosure holds high informative power, consistent with an accountability perspective; on the contrary when this process is peripheral and perceptional (Level 1, basic empathy) the SER tends to provide more self-assessment information attempting to portray the bank positively, which is consistent with a legitimacy perspective. The concept of empathy introduced in this paper can assist in interpreting different stakeholders’ contrasting perspectives within the unique SER voluntary disclosure. Moreover, the approach adopted in this paper considers different stakeholders simultaneously, thus responding to previous concerns regarding the lack of focus on multiple stakeholders.

Speaker biography

Dr Ericka Costa (PhD in Business Economics, University of Udine, Italy) is Senior Lecturer of Accounting at the University of Trento, Italy. She also spent several visiting periods at other universities: in 2011 at the Centre for Social and Environmental Accounting Research at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland; in 2011 and 2013 at the University of Burgos, Spain, and in 2012 at the Centre of Excellence in Accounting & Reporting for Co-operatives (CEARC), St. Mary University, Sobey Business School in Halifax, Canada. She is international associate for Italy at the Centre for Social and Environmental Accounting Research (CSEAR) networks and director of CSEAR Italy. Ericka also participated in several research projects on accounting and social accounting for non-profit organisations and she has attended national and international conferences to present papers on the results of these research projects. Recently, she has been involved with the OECD and the European Commission in delivering a policy brief on social impact measurement for social enterprises. She is also member of the Board of Director of the CEARC Centre of Excellence in Accounting & Reporting for Co-operatives (CEARC), St. Mary University, Sobey Business School in Halifax, Canada. Her research interests are focused on investigating sustainability accounting and corporate social responsibility for both for-profit and non-profit organisations. She has written a number of chapters in books and articles and papers that have been accepted for national and international journals and conferences. Her research has appeared in international publications, including Accounting and Business Research, Social and Environmental Accountability Journal and Journal of Business Ethics. In 2017, her paper on “Social impact measurement: why do stakeholder matters?” published on Sustainability Accounting and Management Journal (Vol. 7, Issue 1, pp. 99-124) has been awarded as a highly recommended paper by the Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence.

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