“If you are not sustainable, you cannot be durable”
published on 02.12.19
Clelia Fiondella is a researcher on Sustainability Management Accounting from Università degli Studi della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli, in Naples (Italy). Now, is also a visiting professor at TBS Business School in Barcelona. She presented some days ago a work based on Enterprise Risk Management, which also included some reflections around sustainability. “Sustainability is a question of risk nowadays, as climate change and global warming affect every kind of risk for a company”, said Clelia Fiondella. We talked to her to learn more about her work here in the university.
TBS in Barcelona: What do you do here, in TBS Business School in Barcelona?
Clelia: I’m here in Barcelona as a visiting professor. In 2009, I finished my PhD in the Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, the first university of Naples. But, then, I moved to the second one, the Università degli Studi della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli, where I became a researcher and associated professor.
In 2016, the university known as the Second University of Naples changed its name to the current one through a survey supported by university’s director. The explanation to the nomenclature is due to the fact that Università degli Studi della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli it was the second university that was born in the region. As Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II became bigger and bigger, we moved outside Naples and, like this, we were born as the second university in Naples.
In concrete terms, my department, the Economic one, was born 25 years ago. As Università degli Studi della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli is a fragmented university, we find several departments around the city to better develop our work for the local community.
TBS in Barcelona: What is your research about?
C: My research focuses especially on Management Accounting, but in the last few years I’ve been also interested in management accounting for sustainability purposes. I’m trying to discover new possibilities to change the course of the research in this direction, and to develop environmental management accounting. For this reason, I’m involved to several international groups that are focused in this field.
TBS in Barcelona: And how is it going?
C: The sustainability concept as a research field is quite confusing. In the past, we used a descriptive approach and sustainability was something different from hard field, such as management accounting. Now, we are trying to integrate sustainability as a hard field too. And, although a frame work exists, we need to develop it better, in an extensive way, so we can apply it into reality.
TBS in Barcelona: It’s a relatively new field, isn’t it?
C: Yes, it’s quite new but also a very buzzword in this moment. People are becoming more and more aware about the fact that we need to change our behaviors quickly as there is no time enough to save the planet.
In that sense, sustainability is a complex concept because, in the past, it wasn’t accounting at all. It arises as an environmental concept and later on receives influences from economic and social perspective. Nowadays, we manage sustainability as the result of three different perspectives: economic, environmental and social. In fact, for business it’s important to consider environment and social aspects if you want to be sustainable in a long term for your economic purposes. So, if you want to ensure your business continuity, you have to change your mind into a sustainable business strategy.
TBS in Barcelona: Do you really observe that current business managers take this concept of sustainability into account?
C: It’s a difficult task for them because, first of all, they have to change the whole business program, implement new tools and prepare people to manage sustainability. It’s a non-easy and slowly process.
TBS in Barcelona: Have you studied any interesting case study which have already developed the concept of sustainability?
C: There are some case studies but the most of them as bad practices. It’s true that some companies are already developing better practices in this way and moving through a more sustainable business strategy. I think that in the future we will have more good practices, but now we are in a transitional moment in which we are taking consciousness of the urge of the problem, about what it’s bad and unacceptable. Also, in the past, research field were used to say that business has no responsibility different from make profit, but now this sentence is not true anymore.
TBS in Barcelona: How these strategies are going to impact the benefits of a company?
C: Companies are going to feel the benefits of these strategies on a long term. Even if sustainability may imply more costs in the present, on the long term it should ensure more benefits because makes business safer from risks. If you are not sustainable, you cannot be durable.
TBS in Barcelona: Have you already introduced these concepts to your students?
C: Yes, I’m trying to introduce sustainability context and tools to my students. As it’s an emergence issue, we don’t have a conventional or traditional way to show it. We need to learn the issue as we develop it.
TBS in Barcelona: Nowadays students belong to a new and more aware generation of people. How do you feel they are receiving sustainability issue?
C: They recognize that there is an environmental problem and they are ready to change it. This new generation is really conscious because they have an urgency, which is to have a long and healthy life. They want a planet safer for them lives. Also, nowadays people have a different perception, as they choose more carefully products and services. We can say that they are changing the consumer habits, being more and more carefully with environment.