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Critical accounting

Dr Sanja Pupovac
School of Accounting, Economics and Finance

Crunching numbers to fight social and environmental injustice

Through forms of accounting geared toward responsibility and sustainability that question how accounting practices contribute to inequalities, (critical accounting, social and environmental accounting) Dr Sanja Pupovac investigates the social and environmental impact of multinational corporations on vulnerable groups in developing countries.

Dr Pupovac began to wonder about the meaning of numbers in society when she was young, watching her father “crunch numbers”. Later, during her undergraduate degree, she found some answers.

“I was deeply touched by a paper on the role of accounting during the Holocaust as well as other works that explored the role of accounting in different social, political and historical contexts."

Her doctoral thesis investigated corporate disclosures by the oil and gas company Royal Dutch Shell following oil spills in Nigeria.

“My passion for environmental injustice and controversies surrounding poverty in developing nations was an ultimate driver to investigate this in an accounting context,” she explains.

Currently, Dr Pupovac is investigating the role of accounting in human trafficking in an economically poor post-conflict Kosovo and the victimisation of a large number of girls and women forced into prostitution.

When it comes to teaching, Dr Pupovac sees herself as someone who is in a privileged and influential position.

“My inspiration for teaching and learning has largely been shaped by my life experiences. From a young age, due to war and conflict in my country of origin, I was denied an opportunity for education,” she says.

“However, my experiences have shaped me, my passion against injustice, my ethics and moral values, but also my gratitude for having a job where I can give back to my students and research community. I feel beyond privileged and humbled to do what I do.”

Dr Pupovac believes firmly in the teaching-research nexus and she’s continually creating research-informed content and assessment activities to foster high-level skills and ethics among her students. She also sees it as her role to increase awareness among her students about the impact of accounting on societies and organisations.

“I aim to develop coherent and creative up-to-date resources to give students a thought-provoking experience in an intellectual and creative way,” she says.

“I challenge my students to think outside the financial boundaries of accounting numbers. I look for opportunities to relate theoretical concepts to real-world challenges, which is why I’ve made space in the curricula for the role of accounting for social justice, environmental concerns, and war.”

Dr Pupovac was awarded a Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to Teaching and Learning in 2018.