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Emma-Riikka Myllymäki: High quality reporting improves decision-making

The Assistant Professor of accounting encourages companies to develop their sustainability reporting.
Emma-Riikka Myllymäki is Assistant Professor of Accounting in the School of Business. Photo: Outi Puukko
Emma-Riikka Myllymäki is Assistant Professor of Accounting in the School of Business. Photo: Outi Puukko

Assistant Professor Emma-Riikka Myllymäki, what are you researching and why? 

The focus of my research is on companies’ financial reporting quality. Auditing and internal controls play an important role in this. In addition, my area of research has expanded to include corporate sustainability reporting, which covers a company’s economic, social and environmental responsibilities. In general, reporting on non-financial information is increasing.

Corporate reporting plays an important role in shareholders’ and other stakeholders’ decision-making and their access to information. In addition to many other criteria, the reporting should be reliable and relevant. High-quality reporting promotes the transparency of business operations. However, quality is a challenging and multidimensional concept, which means that there is much to be studied.

How did you become a researcher in accounting?

When I was studying for my Master’s degree in business, auditing was already my main interest. At the end of my studies, I was given the opportunity to be a research assistant at the Department of Accounting and Finance, and after graduating with a Master’s degree I began my doctoral studies. This is how auditing became my research subject.

In my dissertation, I examined the role of auditing and internal controls in the context of financial reporting quality. I was awarded my doctorate from the University of Vaasa in 2015, and in the same year I started as an Assistant Professor at the Aalto University School of Business. I'm still on this path.

What have been the highlights of your career so far?

Instead of individual highlights, I would say that interesting research topics and discussions with colleagues bring small, and sometimes slightly greater highlights to my work. As an assistant professor at the School of Business, I have been able to work on many interesting tasks. Aalto University creates a unique platform for innovative research projects. 

How has corporate reporting changed? 

In accordance with the EU Directive, sustainability reporting is now mandatory for large companies. Regulation aligns reporting and highlights the role of company board in addressing different areas of responsibility. However, voluntary sustainability reporting has also increased significantly due to stakeholder expectations.

The end goal is to create a better overall picture for the receiver of the report. Reporting helps in decision-making when an effort is made to show and describe the different impacts of the operations. Good quality reporting helps companies develop and maintain activities in line with sustainable development.

How do you see the field evolving in the future?

Future changes in reporting will almost certainly include the number of companies that report, what is being reported, and how. Given the importance of the reliability of the reports, one could assume that the assurance of sustainability reports will become even more common.

It is worth noting that, for example, the EU aims to focus investment and finance on sustainable development. The emphasis seems to be increasingly on reporting the financial implications of sustainability related risks and opportunities, and describing value creation.

In addition, integrated reporting that combines financial and non-financial information has been around for a few years, but it will probably be used more and more in the future. Companies should describe value creation in the short, medium and long term, focusing on materiality. The International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) framework aims not only to provide more informative reporting, but also to develop integrated thinking within the organisation.

Join the Sustainability Reporting Awards, which is open and free to all organisations. In addition to the overall winner, winners will also be awarded in categories of climate change, human rights and value creation.

Participation is open until 14 June 2019 in Finnish and in English

Aalto Sustainability Hub organizes the competition in collaboration with Aalto University School of Business and other actors.

More information 

Emma-Riikka Myllymäki
Assistant Professor of Accounting
[email protected] 

Meri Löyttyniemi
Senior Advisor for sustainability
[email protected]
+358 50 313 7549

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