Sharif Khalid and Jill Atkins at the Management School are welcoming paper submissions for the BAFA (British Accounting & Finance Association) Special Interest Group on Corporate Governance conference, to be held at Sheffield University Management School on 21 December 2016.
The theme is qualitative research in governance and accountability. The conference will bring together academic researchers from around the world where points of discussion will include: governance mechanisms (such as boards, committees and NEDs); accountability mechanisms (audits, stakeholder engagement, shareholder relations); governance and accountability issues in emerging and developing economies; social and environmental accounting, accountability, auditing and governance; and codes of practice (their effectiveness and development).
Sharif said: “We’re looking forward to welcoming guests to Sheffield, and to discussing such a fascinating, fast-moving subject. There’s a long standing tradition of quantitative research into corporate governance, but recently many researchers in the area have moved towards a qualitative manner of understanding. We want to focus on the rich results and understanding that good quantitative research can lead to.”
An invited guest speaker will be announced in due course; there will also be a research methods session for doctoral researchers, as well as a facilitated doctoral stream.
A research project led by Prof Pauline Dibben from the Management School has led to the team developing a free online, diagnostic toolkit to help organisations achieve financially sustainable supply chains and excellent employment practices.
The ESRC-funded SCA-Emp (Supply Chain Accounting and Employment Practices) project undertook research with organisations in the automobile and textile sectors in the emerging markets of Brazil and South Africa to determine how they could intervene and make supply chains more ethical.
The toolkit, available at www.sca-emp.com, offers the ideal intervention. It is aimed at HR managers, accountants and supply chain managers in organisations all over the world, as well as in developing economies – users can easily progress through the toolkit and it will identify areas of possible improvement for the business, making recommendations for them to implement.
The toolkit will also assess users’ progress against a range of statements, make plans for improvements, and then print ‘dashboard’ style reports and action plans.
Benefits of using the toolkit include a potential impact on the bottom line; increased competitiveness; an increase in socially responsible, ethical business practices; and reputational benefits.
Pauline hopes that the toolkit will lead to broader societal changes: “The toolkit will enable businesses to apply more ethical approaches to their supply chains, which should lead to improvements in employment practices. I hope that this will meet the end goal of making a positive difference to vulnerable workers across the world.”
Members of the team are now actively promoting the toolkit in Brazil and through a series of events in the UK, utilising their network of professional bodies who have been involved in the research including CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) and CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development).
Anyone can access the toolkit, and it is also available in Portugese: www.sca-emp.com
Researchers want to know what you remember about the 1976 drought for an academic project.
On the 40th anniversary of the country’s most severe water storage in living memory, Dr Tina McGuinness from the Management School is part of a national team urging those who have memories to share their accounts.
How did you cope? Did it bring people together in communities? What sacrifices did you have to make? How did it affect your life in Sheffield? The anecdotes will contribute towards a £3.2million project named Drought Risk and You (DRY) which aims to provide new evidence for managing future droughts, drawing on science and experience.
Dr McGuinness said: “In June 1976, temperatures of 30 degrees-plus were recorded for as many as 16 consecutive days in the UK, and many reservoirs dried up as a result – it gripped the nation, and we want to capture some of the memories that endure 40 years on.
“The stories are a valuable component of our research, and they need to be considered when looking at solutions for future droughts. How did it affect you, your family or your work? We want to hear the positives and the negatives – from enjoying watching kids playing in the sunshine, to struggling to keep the family hydrated. Your account of that summer could have an impact on how we cope with future droughts.”
The four-year DRY project, which brings together researchers from eight universities and institutes, aims to ensure that the country is better prepared for another extreme water shortage.
Dr McGuinness continued: “Climate change, often leading to extreme weather, is a huge global challenge and we require action from everyone to cope with future crises. This is an opportunity for people to contribute with their narrative of June 1976.”
This study will focus on the impact of drought on seven river catchments, including the River Don which Dr McGuinness is leading on. These are the Cornwall River Fowey; River Frome (Bristol); River Pang (Wiltshire); Bevills Leam (Fenlands); Afon Ebbw (South Wales); and the River Eden (Fife).
The research team is led by UWE Bristol and also includes the University of Sheffield, Loughborough University, NERC’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Harper Adams University, University of Warwick, University of Exeter, University of Dundee and Climate Outreach.
Dr Peter Rodgers, Lecturer in Strategy and International Business at the Management School (pictured), has been awarded a grant from the British Academy’s International Partnerships and Mobility Scheme which he will use to strengthen links with academic colleagues in Ukraine via a research project. Peter leading the grant will work with co-investigator Prof Tim Vorley and other members of the CREED research centre within the Management School.
The project, which will explore the non-market strategies of export orientated Ukrainian firms, aims to explore this area from a research angle while also building dialogue with a variety of relevant stakeholders in Ukraine’s business and policy-making circles.
Peter said: “We’re delighted to receive this grant – it has fundamental benefits not only for the academics involved, but for CREED as a leading research centre examining the nature of economic transformations taking place across post-socialist spaces in Europe, the Management School and the partner institution Kyiv Molyla Business School too.
“The partners see this as an opportunity to build an extended collaboration, beyond this grant, which draws on capabilities at both institutions.”
Ukraine remains the second poorest country in Europe and its economic transformation has been stunted for a number of reasons, including ongoing conflict in the east of the country; ‘rent seeking’ activities and corrupt practices of economic and political elites and a burgeoning informal economy. Peter is an expert in business-state relations in emerging economies and has previously worked extensively in Ukraine and Russia. He has also provided policy advice to the British government on the business landscape in Ukraine, so is well positioned to work with Ukrainian colleagues on exploring the roles, restraints and current relations which hamper the country’s attempts to generate sustainable economic development.
Facilitated workshops and online webinars, as well as visits in person, will bring the research team from CREED and Kyiv together and enable them to build regional partnerships with organisations. This approach is unique in Ukraine – together we will be breaking new ground.
One thing’s for sure, it has not been a good summer for Lionel Messi. Following a fourth international cup final defeat, the diminutive Argentine announced his retirement from international football on June 26, aged just 29. The “Don’t go, Leo” campaigns had barely subsided before he and his father were handed a 21-month jail sentence for tax fraud.
They were found guilty of not declaring £3.5 million of earnings between 2007-2009, linked to the use of tax havens in Belize and Uruguay. Football lovers fearful of the loss of (arguably) the world’s greatest player should be comforted by the fact that sentences under two years can be served outside of prison in Spain.
Messi maintains his innocence and will appeal the decision. But this and the fact that he can keep playing does little to address the serious issue of how some footballers manage their finances – something many in the industry struggle with.
Messi’s case is not unique in Spain or (for that matter) Barcelona. Earlier this year, Messi’s Brazilian team-mate Neymar was also reprimanded and fined €45.9 million for failure to disclose earnings from a range of sources. Neymar also maintains his innocence and is making an appeal.
Money, money, money
From one perspective, Messi’s tax dealings should not come as much of a surprise. The use of tax havens is seemingly the done thing for the super-wealthy, the world over. But there are aspects of the beautiful game which may lend themselves more generally to the aggressive pursuit of even greater earnings.
The game’s global union FIFPro has long urged an abolition of transfer fees so pivotal to the concept of player “ownership”, as well as caps on agent earnings. Outside of player registrations, the concept of economic rights for players has also proliferated in recent years, adding exposure and marketing revenue to the game’s more famous stars, the clubs they play for and the brands/products they advertise.
Messi earns a purported £256,000 per week after tax – so why would any player risk biting the hand that feeds them? One partial explanation may lie in recent adjustments to the Spanish tax system. Previous low rates of tax, linked to a source of competitive advantage for the top flight of Spanish football, La Liga, have since been hiked. The Spanish tax rate for top earners more than doubled in 2012 to 54%.
Regulating a global game
More generally, the problems emerging from the Messi case reflect the fact that, while the globalisation of football in economic and cultural terms is near-complete, the legal rights, regulations and procedures surrounding the sale of players remain highly varied across the globe. Footballers are recruited across a global labour market, though key regions (notably South America) operate with very different norms and regulations regarding ownership rights and recruitment procedures.
Third party ownership, for example, has become commonplace in certain regions of the world. This is where a third party individual or company will give a player or club money in return for owning a percentage of a player’s future transfer fee or “economic rights”. In the UK, the process has become synonymous with Carlos Tevez who arrived at West Ham against the rules of English football, under the ownership of businessman Kia Joorabchian.
But in South America third party ownership is common. It is also accompanied by a spate of high profile scandals involving tactics whereby players are temporarily registered and sold via low-tax jurisdictions (such as Uruguay) as a means of avoiding tax on transfer fees.
The point here is not to conflate issues of third party ownership with Messi’s own crime of tax avoidance, but to put the crime in context. Football is a global industry which operates differently in different parts of the globe. Added to this, many footballers emerge from humble backgrounds and difficult circumstances: combinations of ignorance, greed and acting on bad advice are likely to emerge.
This is not to say that footballers, like workers in any other profession, are free from responsibility when it comes to paying tax or meeting their legal obligations. A major problem is that many people who stand to profit (which may include friends and family members) have an interest in taking risks on the player’s behalf.
Did Messi even know his actions were illegal? Barely a year goes by in football where a legal controversy of one form or another does not emerge, be it more serious cases of fraud or tax avoidance (as with Messi), illegal payments relating to transfer fees (see manager Harry Redknapp’s infamous case in 2012) or unlawful player gambling (including in games they are involved in).
Like Messi, Redknapp pleaded ignorance as well as innocence when it came to charges over his own illegal payments. As well as “knowing nothing” Redknapp went a stage further by citing an inability to text, write or type as part of his defence. He was cleared of tax evasion charges.
If ignorance is no defence, then football as an industry must ensure its players are educated on the legal rights and wrongs associated with the profession. This is particularly important for those elites at the forefront of the game and its marketing, not least because literally billions of viewers (including young, impressionable and avid fans) consume the global game.
A fascinating partnership between researchers at the Management School and the Faculty of Engineering led to a recent sell-out event, with industry leaders at the heart of it.
A number of industry delegates from throughout Europe joined academics at the University of Sheffield on 22 April 2016 for the Materials Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) Workshop, a one-day event organised jointly between the Advanced Resource Efficiency Centre (AREC) and EPSRC funded projects ‘Designing Alloys for Resource Efficiency’ (DARE) and ‘Substitution and Sustainability in Functional Materials and Devices’ (SUbST).
The morning consisted of presentations on major materials innovation projects and real industry cases, given by leading academics and representatives from industry, focusing on the current and future trends of LCA and how this can aid decision-making to achieve resource efficiency and sustainability in an organisation.
The keynote presentation was given by Louis Brimacombe, head of environmental technology at Tata Steel, who explained how LCA has a role in understanding the benefits of a circular economy, where not only environmental considerations but also the social and economic performances of a material are crucial for making sustainable decisions.
Following his presentation, Louis Brimacombe (pictured above) said: “LCA is core in achieving sustainability across supply chains. It not only helps industry makes informed decisions, but identifies where we can improve resource efficiency, sustainability and circular economy.”
During the afternoon, delegates split into working groups to discuss current issues including: why current materials life cycle is not sustainable; how science and research can help to make it more sustainable in the future; the stakeholders who should be involved, and the support and resources required to achieve this. Feedback from this session introduced some exciting new ideas and concepts.
At the end of the workshop one of the main organisers of the event, Professor Lenny Koh from Sheffield University Management School, who is also the director of AREC, said: “This event, which delegates agree should become annual, has evidenced the important role and influence of supply chain LCA in resource efficiency and the sustainability of materials supply chains in flagship projects at the University of Sheffield, including DARE, SUbST and SIMULIFE. LCA must be designed into the development stages of any new materials or products/services to search for the most sustainable option before scale-up. For existing materials, products and services, their life cycle must be continuously assessed through LCA.”
Presentations and a summary of breakout discussions will be posted at www.darealloys.org/news in the next few days.
For 48 hours, four of our postgraduate students are ‘cut off’ from the world – working on a business case in an international competition in Canada.
The fifth International Graduate Competition (IGC), held annually by HEC Montreal, has brought together a number of student teams from world-leading universities to collaborate and compete around a live business case on the themes of network economics, marketing, strategy and IT management.
As one of the first UK teams to attend the competition, the Sheffield group join attendees from Australia, America, Canada and all over Europe. The Management School-funded trip, run and also attended by members of the Centre for Regional Economy and Enterprise Development (CREED) provides a fantastic opportunity for the students who underwent a rigorous selection process.
The students in attendance are Lena Suess (MSc Creative and Cultural Industries Management), Cristian Gherhes (PhD student with CREED), Gerardo Taboada (MSc Logistics and Supply Chain Management) and Emad Ejielat (MSc Entrepreneurship and Management).
Prof Tim Vorley, who is attending the competition in Montreal as a mentor with Dr Robert Wapshott, said: “The six-day event has begun with a series of ice-breaking, team-building sessions, followed by lectures and workshops which are relevant to the themes. Following this, the students were given the brief and have been put into a period of 48 hours with no contact from the outside world, apart from the opportunity to interview experts from the company that has set the business case.
“On Wednesday, the students present their projects. They prepare a 60 page analysis and recommendations and pitch it to the organisation.
“It’s a great opportunity for the students and has given the Management School a presence on this international stage, where we can build links with similar, accredited schools.”
The mission statement for the 2016 budget delivered by George Osborne is to “put the next generation first” – a group he referenced 18 times in his speech.
The new lifetime ISA is fundamental to achieving this. Osborne touted it as “a completely new flexible way for the next generation to save”. But a closer look at the terms and conditions of the new ISA shows there are many it will not benefit.
So, what is it?
Starting in April 2017, savers aged between 18 and 40 who open the new lifetime ISA and put in up to £4,000 a year will get a 25% top-up from the government until they reach 50. That means a maximum of £128,000 in personal savings that will be topped up to £160,000 if you start at 18 and continue for the 32 years the ISA is available.
After the first 12 months of saving, investors can use the lifetime ISA balance to buy a house, provided it is a first-time purchase that costs no more than £450,000. And balances from the current Help-to-Buy ISA can be transferred across. After the age of 60, savers can withdraw funds “for retirement” free of tax. It is not clear whether that means the saver has to actually retire or just needs to be over 60.
Any withdrawals by savers under 60 who aren’t buying a house (unless they are terminally ill) will have the government top-up (plus any interest on it) deducted, and also suffer a 5% tax charge.
It is questionable how useful this new lifetime ISA is for the next generation. First off, it is not very flexible. Savers needing to draw money out before they reach 60 will be penalised if it is not being withdrawn for a first-time house purchase (or terminal illness). There is a dearth of opportunities for short or medium-term saving, and the budget offers no solution.
The Treasury’s own Policy Costings are also vague about what it will cost. The Treasury admits that:
The main source of uncertainty is the behavioural impact, because the cost of the top-up is extremely sensitive to it. In particular, assumptions are made about: the number of people choosing to use the lifetime ISA; how much they choose to save; and when they choose to withdraw.
There is little information that can be used to inform these assumptions and the behaviour is dependent on a variety of other factors, which amplifies the uncertainty.
Based on these uncertainties, the Treasury says it could cost £850m to service these ISA savings by 2021 – but this might be less or it might be more.
It all depends on the number of next generation members who can afford to use it. The £4,000-a-year maximum would be challenging for people on the median household disposable income, which for 2014-15 was £25,600 according to the Office for National Statistics.
On the other hand, as the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the UK’s fiscal watchdog, points out, wealthy parents could give their over-18 offspring an annual £4,000 for the ISA, attracting the £1,000 a year top-up.
The lifetime ISA joins up with the Help-to-Buy Scheme, currently viewed as having boosted UK property prices – by an average of £8,250 according to a 2015 Shelter study. The OBR warns that the new ISA will only increase demand for the relatively fixed supply of UK housing. It estimates that this could lead to an additional 0.3% increase in house prices.
Up, up and away – house prices, that is. shutterstock.com
The ISA has another possible function, as a first step in a move towards an ISA-based regime for pensions. Instead of getting tax relief on pension contributions (as you do now), people using a pensions ISA would contribute from income after tax, but get their retirement income from it tax free.
Critics claim that this change may deter savers, as well as creating confusion while the new auto-enrolment scheme is still bedding down. The Association of British Insurers has been very cautious in welcoming the new ISA, commenting that it “must not be a back door to a pensions ISA”. But there is agreement in the industry that the new ISA is a likely step in that direction.
The new lifetime ISA also looks like a move toward asset-based welfare. This is where welfare policies are made not simply because they are helpful for as many people as possible – like social housing or nationalised health services. The lifetime ISA is aimed at a particular set of relatively affluent individuals who can afford to save for the long term.
Many of the next generation will never be able to save; some won’t be able to start at 18 (and maybe not even at 40) and some won’t be able to leave a lot of money in an ISA for the long term. George Osborne’s new lifetime ISA has little to offer those members of the next generation.
What does it mean to be an international student? Are our students culturally agile and how does this develop when they come to Sheffield or when Sheffield students go abroad? Dr Panayiota Alevizou is conducting a research project to find out.
Emerging in 2014 as an interest from her Certificate in Learning and Teaching (CiLT), it rapidly evolved into a longitudinal study of internationalisation and cultural agility thanks to funding support from the Management School and Faculty of Social Sciences.
Panayiota’s project adopts a case-study approach, focusing on students studying the MSc in Global Marketing Management, where they spend the first semester in Sheffield and the second at Hong Kong Baptist University. By studying the challenges, barriers, and opportunities of two different educational settings, from two different student identity perspectives (as UK and Hong Kong based students), the student perspective unfolds. This offers a voice to their concerns, feelings and opinions in terms of internationalisation, and helps the institutional partners enhance students’ experience and prepare them for future professional paths.
To generate initial findings, which were recently presented at a Faculty event showcasing its Curriculum Development Funding projects, Panayiota observed and interviewed students during their lectures at both institutions, also discussing her project with academic and professional staff. Preliminary research strongly suggests that programmes with a semester abroad are preferred by both home and international students who view this ‘international setting’ as an educational advantage. Other findings relate to social interaction and activities, leadership, cultural flexibility and adaptability, in-group clashes and problem resolution.
The development of cultural agility and the ability of the Sheffield Graduate to work and compete in an international environment is one of the Learning and Teaching (L&T) Strategy priority themes of the University. Professor Paul Latreille, Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching in the Management School, said: “This is a really exciting project that addresses a vital issue for the school – learning about how our students experience multiple local contexts is central to helping them develop the cultural agility that is fundamental in the modern global business environment, and for which this programme in particular equips them.”
The study has continued with the latest cohort, and Panayiota will travel to Hong Kong in April to continue observation and interviews with a view to publishing the results in due course.
Members of the WOERRC research centre, Prof Jason Heyes and Dr Thomas Hastings, recently took their expertise in employment rights to Durban in South Africa.
The duo trained members of the South African Department of Labour’s Inspection and Enforcement Services unit, using their newly developed toolkit – designed for the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The training, a pilot to check the quality of the toolkit, sought to educate labour inspectors further on issues relating to informal employment in South Africa and the potential risks for workers. Labour inspectors are responsible for inspecting workplaces, investigating bad practice and taking action where employers are failing to comply with the requirements of labour legislation. However, labour inspection in the informal economy, where employers might be hard to identify, is fraught with difficulties. Jason and Tom’s aim was to enhance the effectiveness of labour inspection in the informal economy by raising awareness, encouraging innovation and helping inspectors to identify obstacles and ways of getting around them.
South Africa was appropriate for a pilot training session as it has a large informal economy, which includes formal enterprises and formal sector businesses employing people on an informal basis. Jason and Tom created a dialogue with the inspectors through the session, and gathered feedback on its success. The course evaluation was extremely positive and the inspectors mentioned a variety of lessons and new ideas which they intended to implement in their work.
The training toolkit translates academic research into practical application and is designed to be universal – one section can be tailored to the country it is being used in. Jason said: “This is a toolkit designed for labour inspectorates all over the world. We hope to run sessions in other developing countries. By trialling it in this way, we will gather feedback that can inform future developments in the toolkit.”