Robert G. Eccles

Professor of Management Practice

Robert G. Eccles first joined the faculty in 1979 and received tenure in 1989. He left in 1993 to work in the private sector and rejoined the faculty in 2007. Right after receiving tenure, Professor Eccles started doing research on corporate reporting, a topic which remains of great interest to him from a research, managerial practice, and public policy perspective. He has written three books on this subject, The ValueReporting Revolution: Moving Beyond the Earnings Game (with Robert H. Herz, E. Mary Keegan and David M. H. Phillips), Building Public Trust: The Future of Corporate Reporting (with Samuel A. DiPiazza Jr.), and One Report: Integrated Reporting for a Sustainable Strategy (with Michael P. Krzus), which is the first book on this subject. One Report was the winner of the 2010 PROSE award in the category of Business, Finance, & Management. He is a member of the International Integrated Reporting Council (http://www.integratedreporting.org/) and the founding Chairman of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) ( www.sasb.org). Dr. Eccles is the co-founder, with Professor George Serafeim of Harvard Business School, of the Innovating for Sustainability social movement (https://www.facebook.com/innovatingforsustainability), and a member of the Advisory Board of the Institute for Sustainable Value Creation (https://www.conference-board.org).

Professor Eccles continues his active research program on integrated reporting. His next book on the subject, The Integrated Reporting Movement: Meaning, Momentum, Motives, and Materiality (with Michael P. Krzus and Sydney Ribot) will be published in November 2014. This book introduces the ideas of an annual board of directors “Statement of Significant Audiences and Materiality” and the “Sustainable Value Matrix.” In developing these ideas, Professor Eccles worked closely with Mr. Tim Youmans.  He and Professor Eccles are now writing a book with the working title of “The Meaning of Materiality” which will be an in depth treatment of the ideas introduced in The Integrated Reporting Movement and will include a public policy perspective on the important but elusive concept of materiality. Youmans received his Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School (2013) and is a Harvard Kennedy School Lucius N. Littauer Fellow.

Professor Eccles is working on two other books. The first is in collaboration with Professor George Serafeim of the Harvard Business School with a working title of “Mobilizing the Global 1000.” This is based on an extensive and continuing research program on sustainability the two of them have been engaged in for the past three years. The premise of this book is that the increasing economic concentration in the world’s largest companies makes them a force even more important than governments in creating a sustainable society. Eccles and Serafeim have created an executive education program called “Aligning Sustainablity with Corporate Performance” and a doctoral seminar called “The Role of the Corporation in Society.”

The other book is on professional service firms, being written in collaboration with Professor Das Narayandas of Harvard Business School and Mr. Partha Bose, the author of “Alexander the Great's Art of Strategy: The Timeless Lessons of History's Greatest Empire Builder.”  The premise of this book, “Building Capabilities: Ensuring Long-Term Success in a Professional Service Firm,” is that professional service firms need to balance short-term capacity utilization with long-term capability building. The latter is done at the individual and organizational level by properly managing the talent market and the client market in an integrated way.

In 2011, Dr. Eccles was selected as one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior - 2012 for his extensive, positive contribution to building trust in business.

Dr. Eccles received an S.B. in Mathematics and an S.B. in Humanities and Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1973) and an A.M. (1975) and Ph.D. in Sociology (1979) from Harvard University.


  1. Sustainability and Integrated Reporting

    by Robert G. Eccles

    A sustainable strategy for a company is one that enables it to create value for shareholders over the long term while contributing to a sustainable society. In doing so, it must balance the needs of different types of providers of financial capital (e.g., shareholders and debt holders) and stakeholders representing various environmental and social interests of civil society. Typically tradeoffs are involved, although these can be reduced or even reversed through innovation. It is ultimately the responsibility of the board of directors to determine the relative emphasis a company places on providers of financial capital and other stakeholders and over what time frames in their fiduciary duty to represent the interests of the corporation as a legal entity. One mechanism for helping companies make these resource allocation decisions is integrated reporting in which a company communicates both internally and externally its financial, environmental, social, and governance performance and the relationships between them.

    One Report: Integrated Reporting for a Sustainable Strategy (with Michael P. Krzus), is the first book on this subject. One Report was the winner of the 2010 PROSE award in the category of Business, Finance, & Management. Professor Eccles continues his active research program on integrated reporting. Professor Eccles’ next book on the subject, The Integrated Reporting Movement: Meaning, Momentum, Motives, and Materiality (with Michael P. Krzus and Sydney Ribot) will be published in November 2014. This book introduces the ideas of an annual board of directors “Statement of Significant Audiences and Materiality” and the “Sustainable Value Matrix.” In developing these ideas, Professor Eccles worked closely with Mr. Tim Youmans.  He and Professor Eccles are now writing a book with the working title of “The Meaning of Materiality” which will be an in depth treatment of the ideas introduced in The Integrated Reporting Movement and will include a public policy perspective on the important but elusive concept of materiality. Youmans received his Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School (2013) and is a Harvard Kennedy School Lucius N. Littauer Fellow.

    In collaboration with Professor George Serafeim of the Harvard Business School, Eccles has been engaged in an extensive and continuing research program on sustainability. This has resulted in a number of articles and cases which explore how companies can develop and implement sustainable strategies. The audience for their work includes both academics and practitioners. For the latter, two relevant articles are The Performance Frontier: Innovating a Sustainable Strategy (with George Serafeim) and How to Become a Sustainable Company (with Kathleen Miller Perkins and George Serafeim). For both audiences, the research they have done with Professor Ioannis Ioannou of the London Business School comparing the characteristics and performance of a matched set of “High Sustainability” and “Low Sustainability” companies is relevant. (Is There an Optimal Degree of Sustainability? (with Ioannis Ioannou and George Serafeim).) Eccles and Serafeim are currently working on a book with the working title of “Mobilizing the Global 1000.” The premise of this book is that the increasing economic concentration in the world’s largest companies makes them a force even more important than governments in creating a sustainable society. Based on their research, Eccles and Serafeim have created an executive education program called “Aligning Sustainablity with Corporate Performance” and a doctoral seminar called “The Role of the Corporation in Society.”

     

    Professor Eccles is working in a number of ways to translate his research on sustainability and integrated reporting into practice. He is a member of the International Integrated Reporting Council (http://www.integratedreporting.org/) and the founding Chairman of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) ( www.sasb.org). Dr. Eccles is the co-founder, with Professor George Serafeim of Harvard Business School, of the Innovating for Sustainability social movement (https://www.facebook.com/innovatingforsustainability), and a member of the Advisory Board of the Institute for Sustainable Value Creation (https://www.conference-board.org).

    Keywords: sustainability; sustainability reporting;

  2. Building Capabilities in Professional Service Firms

    by Robert G. Eccles

    One of the most distinctive aspects of professional service firms is that the vast majority of the people who work in them are directly involved in serving clients.  Long-term success in a professional service firm requires obtaining and developing the right professionals (managing the talent market), obtaining and developing the right clients (managing the client market), and matching clients' needs with the professionals in the firm who have the appropriate capabilities.  Another distinctive aspect of professional service firms is the extent to which working for clients is the basis upon which both its individual professionals and the firm itself builds capabilities in order to satisfy new needs of existing clients and the needs of new clients.  This can occur in relatively modest and incremental ways, such as when a young associate is put on a project in an industry she hasn't worked in before. It can also occur in very major ways, such as when a client has a problem that has never been solved before and in helping the client solve this problem, the firm develops a major innovation that leads to a new service offering, not only for the firm but for the entire profession in which it operates.  In collaboration with Professor Das Narayandas in the Marketing Unit and Mr. Partha Bose, author of “Alexander the Great's Art of Strategy: The Timeless Lessons of History's Greatest Empire Builder,” Dr. Eccles is using the insights gained from a number of new cases developed for the MBA elective course on "Leading Professional Service Firms" and the Executive Education program "Building Client Management Capabilities in Professional Service Firms, along with supplementary research, to develop the concept of "building capabilities" as a core principle for ensuring long-term success in a professional services firm.