Ernst & Young LLP launches academic case study on sustainability reporting in time for new school year

Case study examines sustainability decision-making among executives to enable discussion among accounting and business students
Aug 17, 2011 9:30 AM ET
Press Release

(3BL Media / theCSRfeed) New York, NY - 17 August 2011 - In response to the growing need for curriculum that focuses on top sustainability business issues, Ernst & Young LLP and the Ernst & Young Foundation today launch a case study for professors to use in their business and accounting classrooms. The case study examines the decision of a fictional firm to begin to issue a sustainability report.  

As more companies integrate sustainability practices and reporting into their operations, accounting and business school students worldwide face increasing demand from potential employers to understand and be able to act on these issues. Students are looking to their professors for practical training and seeking up-to-date information to make informed employment and purchasing decisions.
“Increasingly, stakeholders are requesting more information from companies about their environmental and social performance,” noted Steve Starbuck, Americas Director of Climate Change and Sustainability Services at Ernst & Young LLP. “We recently released findings, for example, that social and environmental proxy resolutions comprised 40% of all shareholder proposals in 2011, up from 30% in 2010. Future business leaders need to know how to respond to these kinds of requests and how to proactively incorporate these issues into day-to-day operations and strategies.”
In response to this increasing momentum around environmental sustainability in the business realm, a growing number of undergraduate and graduate schools desire to incorporate sustainability-related courses into their curricula. The Aspen Institute’s most recent Beyond Grey Pinstripes Report found that out of 149 business schools the percentage of schools requiring students to take a course dedicated to business and society issues has increased from 34% in 2001 to 69% in 2009.
Richard Brownlee II is a Professor of Business Administration at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, which ranked as 11 on The Aspen Institute’s Beyond Grey Pinstripes Global 100 list – a ranking based on how academic institutions prepare students to meet the business challenges of tomorrow, particularly social, ethical and environmental stewardship issues.  Brownlee explains, “Over a relatively short period of time, sustainability issues and the opportunities they provide have demanded the attention of global business leaders, including those in the C-suite. It is essential that students be exposed to timely, relevant and useful issues and concepts that will enhance their decision-making capabilities. Case studies that have a sustainability focus are in relatively short supply, and corporate sustainability reporting is becoming mainstream. New case materials on this emerging topic would be a welcome addition to our curriculum.”
Ernst & Young’s Climate Change and Sustainability Services team developed the case based on experience in the field, and then shared it with the Ernst & Young Academic Resource Center (EYARC), a project of the Ernst & Young Foundation. EYARC faculty was then asked to develop complementary discussion questions and guidance to facilitate use of the case in classrooms.
In the case study, TBL Technology considers sustainability reporting, students are presented with an overview of corporate social responsibility reporting, and then led through the company’s cost-benefit analysis. The case illustrates the complexity of deciding whether or not to report on a company’s sustainability performance from the perspective of the CEO, CSO, CFO and Audit Committee Chair. Readers follow each executive’s assessment of the potential impact of reporting on “triple bottom line” performance, stakeholder trust and expectations, risk management, competitive advantage, and operational efficiency.
The discussion questions guide students and professors through the issue that arise in the case, such as:
·         The challenge of defining the costs and benefits of sustainability reporting
·         The roles and necessary actions of key company decision-makers
·         How sustainability fits into the greater issue of enhancing business performance
For more information and to access the case study, TBL Technology considers sustainability reporting, visit  
About the Ernst & Young Foundation
The Ernst & Young Foundation (US) was formed in 1937 to provide effective and meaningful philanthropic support to institutions of higher education, primarily in the areas of accounting, tax, and general business. Ernst & Young and the Foundation have gifted more than $100 million to educational organizations throughout the United States. Last year, the Ernst & Young Foundation contributed more than $5 million in matching funds to higher education, matching the eligible contributions of E&Y active and retired personnel.
About the Ernst & Young Academic Resource Center
The Ernst & Young Academic Resource Center (EYARC), a project of the Ernst & Young Foundation, is an innovative and collaborative relationship between faculty and professionals. The EYARC develops and provides free curriculum resources and other educational support to address the latest issues impacting the accounting profession. The EYARC is yet another example of the firm’s commitment to the academic community.
About Ernst & Young
Ernst & Young is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. Worldwide, our 141,000 people are united by our shared values and an unwavering commitment to quality. We make a difference by helping our people, our clients and our wider communities achieve their potential.
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Ernst & Young refers to the global organization of member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. This press release is issued by Ernst & Young LLP, a member firm providing services to clients in the US. 
Alex Hahn
VOX Global
Samantha Sims
Ernst & Young LLP Americas Public Relations