Visiting Scholar: Dr. Daphne Rixon

Date: January 25, 2019, 2:00-3:30 p.m., BN-4000

Title: The Utility of Accounting and Reporting: Measuring the Co-operative Difference

Stakeholders from all business sectors are increasingly looking to businesses to address pressing social and environmental concerns (Adams, 2004; Adams & Frost, 2006; Gao & Zhang, 2006; Knox et al., 2005; Reynolds & Yuthas, 2008). Like other business enterprises, co-operatives are expected to demonstrate that they are operating in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. Furthermore, from an identity differentiation perspective, it is important for co-operatives to demonstrate that they are distinct from other business enterprises. The co-operative difference is illustrated through the adherence to seven principles as established by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA): voluntary and open membership; member economic participation; autonomy and independence; education, training, and information; co-operation among co-operatives; and concern for community. There is an understanding that because of the seven underlying principles, there should be observable and predictable outcomes that differ from outcomes observed in other corporate forms (Birchall, 1998, 2005; Co-operatives UK, 2006; Fairbairn, 2004). Co-operatives are providing goods and services in almost every sector in Canada (MacPherson, 2011) and play an important role in Canada’s economy (Karaphillis et al., 2017), and yet, very little is known or understood about their social or environmental impact.

Currently, multi-sectoral benchmarks to measure social, environmental, and co-operative performance in a way that is not complex and is accessible to small and medium-sized co-operatives does not exist. The objective of this research was to work with the co-operative industry sector to develop a set of indicators that could be used as a benchmark to measure, compare and evaluate co-operative performance.

The methodology for this project was participatory action research. In this study we conducted 20 interviews with a diversity of co-operators. Co-operatives from each geographic region of Canada, different types, industries, French and English, and sizes have all been considered and sampled. As a result of these interviews, we selected 12 co-operatives to participate in a pilot project whereby they would select the KPIs.

This study is important as it addresses the following gaps: the lack of co-operative specific social, environmental, and co-operative benchmarks; and the limited analytical and financial resources of small to medium-sized co-operatives to develop benchmarks and data. As a result of our research, we have co-created a framework whereby co-operatives have chosen 20 indicators based on the seven co-operative principles, as well as a data collection and measurement system. This research is continuing into its second year, where we will test the indicators and the collection system, as well as design a reporting system, work with confidentiality issues, figure out the benchmarks, and plan for sustainability.

Dr. Daphne Rixon is Associate Professor of Accounting, Saint Mary’s University. She has a PhD from the University of Warwick, United Kingdom and is a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) and Certified Management Accountant (CMA). Daphne has three degrees from Memorial University (BA, BCom (Hons), MBA). Prior to becoming an academic, she worked in the private and public sectors for over 20 years as Controller and Director of Finance. Dr. Rixon has a very productive research program which has resulted in 43 peer-reviewed publications and 75 conference presentations. She has won several research awards including the Emerald Literati Network 2018 Award for Excellence her paper co-authored with Larry Corrigan: “A dramaturgical accounting of cooperative performance indicators. It was published in Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management. The paper has already been downloaded more than 530 times.

Daphne is Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Co-operative Accounting and Management. In addition to her position of Associate Professor, she is also the Executive Director of the Centre of Excellence in Accounting and Reporting for Co-operatives (CEARC). Dr. Rixon teaches managerial and cost accounting in the undergraduate program as well as Financial Management in the Masters of Management for Co-operatives and Credit Unions (MMCCU) program and Integrative Accounting in the MBA-CPA program.


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