CBE welcomes Dr Sarah Adams to ANU, where she has taken up a role at the Research School of Accounting (RSA).
Dr Adams joined RSA in 2017 with a background in public accounting, particularly looking at the way in which organisations with a social purpose discharge their accountability, expressed in the form of a social impact account.
“My PhD was called ‘Social impact accounting’ and I looked at how organisations with a social purpose, like a charity or non-for-profit, or a social enterprise, prepare discretionary accounts which describe how they achieved their mission or achieved ‘social impact’”said Dr Adams.
The accounting standard setting context for not-for-profit organisations in Australia is unique because of an approach called sector neutrality, where accounting standards apply universally across organisations.
“This creates distinct challenges for standardising social impact accounting in Australia. Accounting standards are applied to all organisations universally - rather than non-for-profits, or for-profits separately.”
For organisations with a social purpose, being able to incorporate social impact into financial reporting is emerging as central to their story, says Dr. Adams.
“I argue that social impact accounting is not just about funding. Funding is part of the story, and companies produce these reports to attract funding, but they actually use those reports for many different reasons – such as sharing their learning about social issues with their peers.
“Social impact accounting is something organisations have been doing for a long time. Now it’s something that’s becoming formalised and more popular, and there is more pressure on organisations to comply.”
Dr Adams believes that, with the release of a recent federal government discussion paper of social impact investment there is an exciting opportunity to engage in the public policy of social impact accounting.
Last month the Australian Government signalled their interest again in social investment, and in linking different types of instruments to purpose and outcomes. So it’s definitely on the government agenda, which is great reason to be in Canberra as you can engage more directly in the policy discussion.”