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Metrics and Their Meaning: Interpreting Corporate Environmental and Social Impact Disclosures

Unlock the language of corporate social responsibility with our course “Metrics and Their Meaning:  Interpreting Corporate Environmental and Social Impact Disclosures.” Have you wondered what corporations reveal about their environmental and social policies and performance? Do you want the skills to interpret their disclosures, to understand how companies manage their carbon emissions and fulfill their social responsibilities? If so, this course can guide you through the nuances of corporate impact reporting. 

The course takes an interactive approach to deepen your understanding of how corporations communicate their environmental and social impacts. Class sessions will include exercises with classmates, group conversations, and discussions with influential guest speakers who are leading the charge in corporate measurement and reporting. We will explore various frameworks for measurement, evaluation, risk assessment, and disclosure, shedding light on the motivations behind corporate engagement in environmental and social activities and disclosure, and the responsibilities of managers and directors.

We will also delve into understanding the landscape of key players influencing corporate disclosure decisions, from corporate management to citizens and activists to institutional investors and regulatory bodies such as the US Securities Exchange Commission, the International Sustainability Standards Board, and the European Union. Gain the ability to read ESG reports critically, along with a foundational understanding of financial reports. No prior accounting knowledge is necessary, as we will provide essential basics in the initial sessions. 

The course culminates in group projects that offer an in-depth exploration of issues related to assessing an organization's social and environmental footprint. Project topics may include evaluating sustainability disclosures, analyzing standard-setting and disclosure regulation, or generating and evaluating innovative business models for positive environmental and social impacts. 

While this course may not be audited, a request for Pass/Fail grading may be submitted for instructor review.

Maureen McNichols 

Maureen McNichols is The Marriner S. Eccles Professor of Accounting and Public and Private Management at Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB). Her leading research on earnings management and its implications for investors, and on analysts’ incentives, forecasts, and investment recommendations has received considerable attention from academics, investors, and regulators. Her papers appear in the leading journals in accounting and finance and have garnered several Best Paper awards. She served as an editor of Review of Accounting Studies, and has served on the editorial boards of Journal of Accounting ResearchThe Accounting Review and Contemporary Accounting Research.

Learn more about Maureen McNichols