Before I sat down to write this column this morning, I took a minute to glance at the news headlines.
The top story came from Germany, where dozens had drowned in terrible floods. Wildfires rage in many parts of the world, famine and drought in others, and Death Valley in California recorded the highest temperature ever (54.4C).
All these extreme weather events were deeply disturbing. And clearly they were all connected with the climate emergency that grips our planet.
Sometimes it is easy to throw up one’s hands in despair at the enormity of these challenges. How can one individual change the planet? But I prefer to think that while no one can do everything, everyone can do something to tackle these threats.
Net-zero carbon goal
That is why I am so proud and pleased that ACCA is supporting Accounting For Sustainability (A4S) in its campaign to unite the global finance industry behind the goal of a net-zero carbon world.
We must change the way we keep score in business
It acknowledges the truth that unless we cut emissions, global temperatures will keep going up, the ice caps will continue to melt, seas will continue to rise and lives will continue to be blighted by vicious weather events.
A4S unites professional bodies globally, bringing together more than 2.5 million accountants – two-thirds of the world’s total – across 179 countries.
Jessica Fries, the executive chairman of A4S, says that accountants have a central role to play in the drive to net zero.
‘With a clear trend towards mandatory sustainability reporting, the expectations of finance professionals are changing,’ she says. ‘A4S helps accountants navigate the rapidly changing corporate reporting landscape to make sustainable business, business as usual.’ (See the A4S report.)
That chimes with ACCA’s own view that we must change the way we keep score in business, by adding measures connected with sustainability, corporate responsibility, environmental awareness and the public good to the blunt instrument of profit and loss.
Pushing at an open door
I believe that we are pushing at an open door because more and more people are increasingly aware that the traditional way of judging economic value is broken. This why there is a movement in favour of sustainability reporting just about everywhere.
Amid the goodwill there is also confusion, as the hunger for better reporting has triggered an avalanche of regulation. There are currently 614 sustainability reporting requirements across 84 countries, and 25 stock exchanges covering 16,456 companies require environmental impact reporting as a listing rule.
This is where accountants can step up – because organisations are relying on the knowledge, skills and processes of finance professionals to keep them up to date on reporting trends.
It’s an important role for our times, and ACCA is glad to join with our colleagues from all over the world under the A4S umbrella to advocate for a net-zero carbon economy and a truly sustainable future for business and the planet.