By Mutiu Iyanda
In 2000, the global leaders came together and collectively devised a plan that would help reduce various socioeconomic and political problems by 2015. Despite the good intention and efforts put into the attainment of poverty reduction and other time-bound targets, many countries, including Nigeria lagged behind due to lack of political will, bureaucracy, poor resource, insecurity among other reasons. Since a great number of countries, especially those in developing continents, missed the MDGs targets, world leaders converged again in 2015 and came up with the Sustainable Development Goals with the agreement to start the implementation by January 2016 and end in 2030.
If Nigeria does not want to fail again, the country needs to develop realistic plans and sector-specific strategies to achieve the set goals. The last goal of the SDGs is a partnership, which is expected to be driven by the Public Private Partnership Models. Businesses, scholars and others need to select the right models that would help the country in realising the goals by 2030, particularly Goal 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14 and 15. These goals are directly connected with various environmental and social issues across the country.
From the north to the east, and south to the west region, people need clean water and better sanitation facilities. Power supply from the national grid remains unsustainable in the last two decades, which has resulted in the use of harmful sources of energy at the rural and semi-urban areas. The unemployment rate is increasing every quarter and year, making decent work and sustained economic growth unattainable. Consumables and non-consumables are being produced and used in the last few years through the means capable of endangering human and aquatic life. From domestic to industrial places, toxic chemicals are being released every second into the atmosphere, causing significant impacts on the climate with the incessant flooding and other results on the environment. No doubt, lives under water and on the land need attention of the businesses, schools and governments.
These insights and others led to the analysis of the place of accounting scholars (as one of the partners) in the realisation of Goal 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14 and 15 expected to be driven by governments and businesses with the respect to the environmental and social accounting practices. From 2015 to 2018, various keywords and phrases were used to locate articles published by the Nigerian scholars in different search engines and analyse the research trends and practices within the period. The search reveals a total of 46 publications with the domination of environmental accounting studies followed by social accounting studies. Over 39% of the articles were published in 2018 and 2017 (26.08%).
This indicates that scholars shifted attention to environmental and social accounting researches two years after the world agreed on the new goals for another 15 years. In the same 2018, Nigerians scholars focused on environmental issues more than social issues. Over 34% of the 26 environmental issues articles were published during the year, while 30.76% were published in 2017. Only 4 articles were found for social accounting issues. Out of this number, 2 articles were published in 2018. The available data also indicate that 10 articles with the specific focus on environmental and social accounting were published in 2018.
Out of the 46 articles discovered by the search engines, 20 articles had specific industries. Eight of the articles had oil and gas industry as the setting. This is closely followed by manufacturing industry with 7 articles, while banking had 5 articles. The main practices among the businesses as discovered by the scholars include investment and disclosure. Companies studied by the scholars invested in environmental and social accounting issues and disclosed the expenditure in their annual reports. Despite the investment and disclosure, the understanding of the ESA principles was low among the preparers of the sustainability reports. Does the public interest match with the scholars and businesses’ efforts during the period? Answers were sought for this question with the further analysis of the articles along with the real time data.
Public Interest and Expectations
For the 4 years examined, environmental and social issues from the activities of the oil and gas companies occupied public minds than those generated in banking and manufacturing industries. Analysis shows that the higher the public interest in environmental and social issues, the lower the publications by the scholars. This suggests that publications were not resonating with the public need. However, analysis suggests that there was a low positive connection between the public interest in the manufacturing industry’s environmental and social issues and publications by the scholars within social accounting.
Academia need to intensify researches within environmental accounting in addition to social accounting researches, especially for the oil and gas, and banking industries. These two industries are critical to the country’s attainment of 7 out of the 17 SDGs. Businesses must also deem it fit to comply with the necessary guidelines on the preparation of sustainability reports.
In this regard, adherence to the corporate ethics must be prioritised because analysis suggests that the current global ranking for the country within the ethical behaviour of firms’ indicator resonated with the public interest in environmental and social issues, especially in the oil and gas, and manufacturing industries than the banking industry.
The negative link between the public interest in environmental and social issues signifies the possibility of the players in the banking sector non-adherence to the corporate ethics during the period under review. To ensure adequate compliance, government needs to strengthen institutional framework and processes being used for corporate governance and sustainability practice. This is essential as the public interest in ESA aligned with the country’s poor ranking on public institutions’ indicator.