Measuring and Comparing Sustainability Performance: The fabric of fiction

The Essex Accounting Centre (EAC) warmly invites you to join guest speaker Professor Olivier Boiral from Laval University as he explores his work on corporate sustainability performance.

  • Wed 16 Mar 22

    14:00 - 16:00

  • Online

    Join this seminar

  • Event speaker

    Professor Olivier Boiral, Laval University

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars
    Essex Accounting Centre (EAC) Research Seminar Series

  • Event organiser

    Essex Business School

  • Contact details

    Dr Chaoyuan She

The aim of the Essex Accounting Centre (EAC) research seminar series is to support our world-class research activities in five key areas: accounting and global development; capital Markets, audit, regulation & reporting; publicness and resilience, precarity, exclusion & social justice; and environment, climate change & vulnerability. The seminar series is also expected to promote inter-disciplinary research that links the work of members of the centre with others both within the university and with external institutions.

Seminar abstract

Corporate sustainability performance disclosure is a key issue for a growing number of organizations and many stakeholders, including socially responsible investment practitioners.
Although the quality and the reliability of sustainability disclosures have been widely criticized in the literature, most of these criticisms do not fundamentally challenge the assumption of measurability and comparability of corporate sustainability performance, but rather point to organizations' lack of transparency and greenwashing practices. Moreover, just like responsible investment practitioners, research on sustainability performance largely relies on data produced by nonfinancial rating agencies, which provide little or no accurate and credible information on the methods used to measure performance and develop ratings.
This seminar will explain why the measurement and comparison of sustainability performance represent to a large extent a fiction, regardless of the organizations' lack of transparency. The rationale and usefulness of such fiction for most stakeholders, including the research community, will also be discussed. The seminar will be based on current research and on several published articles on the subject, in particular:

  • Boiral, O., Talbot, D., Brotherton, M. C., & Heras-Saizarbitoria, I. (2021). Sustainability rating and moral fictionalism: opening the black box of nonfinancial agencies. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal.
  • Boiral, O., Brotherton, M. C., & Talbot, D. (2020). Building trust in the fabric of sustainability ratings: An impression management perspective. Journal of Cleaner Production, 260, 120942.
  • Boiral, O., & Henri, J. F. (2017). Is sustainability performance comparable? A study of GRI reports of mining organizations. Business & Society, 56(2), 283-317.


How to join this seminar

This seminar is free to attend with no need to register in advance.

Please join us online on Wednesday 16 March 2022 at 2pm.

We welcome you to share this seminar with your friends, colleagues and classmates.


Speaker bio

Olivier Boiral is a full professor of management at the Faculty of Business Administration, Laval University, in Quebec City, Canada. He is also the chairholder of the Canada Research Chair in Internalization of Sustainability Practices and Organizational Accountability.

He has been working on corporate sustainability for more than thirty years.

His current research explores several topics including corporate sustainability practices and accountability, governance, environmental standards internalization by organizations, socially responsible investment, and the role of organizational citizenship behaviours for the environment.

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