Professor of Accountancy,
Associate Dean for Faculty and Research in the Mendoza College of Business
Since joining the faculty in 1977, I have taught a variety of financial reporting and financial statement analysis courses. Recently while designing an accounting course, I tried a novel approach informed by the declaration: “The primary function of commerce is service to mankind,” which was made some 90 years ago by John Cardinal O’Hara, the business college’s founding dean.
The course, “Sustainability: Accounting & Reporting,” introduces to students a wide-ranging set of performance indicators that goes beyond traditional measures of a firm’s economic performance by quantifying its service to humanity, as well. This involves constructing metrics that capture the firm’s effect on the environment and, broadly defined, on society—e.g., its human rights record and labor practices, product safety and responsibility, commitment to diversity, safeguards against corruption, and impact on local communities where operating facilities exist.
Interdisciplinary in its scope, the course draws on theories and practices discussed in philosophy, theology, economics, and political science to evaluate the appropriateness and veracity of the nontraditional performance indicators. We then explore how best to incent decision-makers and governments to use the broader set of metrics when assessing firm performance in order to promote the common good.