On 28 September 1066, William the Conqueror jumped ashore on a beach in Sussex, England, and began the Normans’ subjugation of the country.
The invasion still sends ripples through history, not least in our own profession, because as the new king set out to assess the wealth of his realm, he invented a concept that is critical to our work as accountants 955 years later.
He ordered his people to measure the output of every tannery, farm, fishing boat, mill, bakery and charcoal brazier in the land, and the people were obliged under pain of severe punishment to comply with the order. The king had invented corporate reporting – and those first reports were collected in the volume that is now famous as The Domesday Book.
It proves that, in finance, as in everything else in life, there is really nothing new under the sun.
Of course, it is true that we face a much more complicated world, and corporate reporting in 2021 brings fresh demands for all of us. Reporting requirements change all the time in a world where borders are increasingly meaningless, and society demands much more from its businesses than ever before.
It is no longer enough to deliver profit and loss accounts once a year. Now the wider public, quite rightly, insists that corporations serve as good citizens, placing as much emphasis on the health of the planet and the wellbeing of the community as they do on financial returns.
Our future depends on the culture we seek to promote in our lives and our businesses
This is made clear in the latest instalments of ACCA’s series of reports that are themed Professional accountants changing business for the planet. The invaluable new sections are short guides to natural capital management for corporate reporters and performance managers.
The series describes how business worldwide is striving to comply with ever-moving targets on sustainability and social responsibility. There are now well over 700 mandatory reporting requirements on the environment in 70 jurisdictions, and that number is rising.
This throws down a challenge for every business as it seeks to observe the letter as well as the spirit of the law. But really, our common future depends on the culture we seek to promote in our lives and our businesses.
At ACCA, we are committed to meeting UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, and we are also pioneers of integrated reporting, which seeks to widen the horizon of how we measure success in business.
In these and other ways we are playing our part in ensuring that the natural capital of the Earth is not squandered while we act as the stewards of its future.