As we head towards November’s COP26 in Glasgow, 14 accountancy bodies around the world—including five bodies based in the UK—have joined forces in a call to action to fight against climate change.
The organisations say that tackling climate change needs practical measurement and management. Accountants are key to help businesses build sustainability into their working practices, commercial relationships and supply chains.
As part of The Prince of Wales’s Accounting for Sustainability Project (A4S) Accounting Bodies Network, which collectively represents over 2.5 million accountants and students worldwide, the 14 accounting bodies, and supported by IFAC, have published a declaration calling on the profession to put sustainability and the fight against climate change at the forefront of its work.
The statement asserts that accounting bodies and members have a critical role to play to help effect meaningful change because of their expertise with advising businesses about risk management and their responsibility to act in the public interest.
A central role
The transition to a net-zero carbon economy will rely on adapting economic policy and associated market mechanisms. Accounting practices are central to achieving both.
Accountants must act on economic, social and business risks, and climate change is one of the biggest we face.
Professional accountants also have a responsibility to act in the public interest, which must now include helping organisations to address climate change.
An accountant’s role should help businesses identify the risks posed by climate change; better disclosure will enable more informed decision-making, while enabling market forces to drive efficient allocation of capital and support a smooth and just transition to a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy.
The profession can play an important role in ensuring transparency and appropriate disclosure around climate-related risks and opportunities, which in turn will help to maintain financial stability.
The call to action asks accountants across the world to integrate climate change risk into organisational strategy, finance, operations, and communications; support sustainable decision-making; and provide sound advice and services.
As part of the call to action, the global accounting bodies have pledged to provide support to help their members fulfil this role.
The full list of global bodies which have signed up to the call to action is:
- Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT)
- Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
- Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (the unified voice of AICPA and CIMA)
- Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ)
- Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI)
- Consiglio Nazionale dei Dottori Commercialisti degli Esperti Contabili (CNDCEC)
- CPA Australia
- CPA Canada
- Institut der Wirtschaftsprüfer in Deutschland e.V. (IDW)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)
- International Federation of Accountants
- Japanese Institute of Certified Public Accountants (JICPA)
- Regnskap Norge/Accounting Norway
What the UK-based professional bodies say
Mark Farrar, chief executive of AAT, says: “As influential members across every sector in society, professional accountants are in a unique position to help effect positive action in a collective effort. We have both a responsibility to act in the public interest, and the skills and expertise to help deliver meaningful change. We encourage AAT’s 130,000 members worldwide to play their own part in taking action, helping the organisations they work with to respond to climate change with the urgency and scale required.”
Helen Brand OBE, chief executive of ACCA, says: “This is a call to action not just for accountants, but also for the professional bodies of which they are members – we all have an immense role to play here, and alongside my colleagues we all sign up to three proactive commitments that will help our members and future members rise to the challenge.”
Barry Melancon, chief executive of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, says: “The accounting profession has long focused on assessing and managing financial risks. However, the global risks we are seeing today, in particular environment-related risks, are pushing our profession to expand its remit. As core members of almost every business, government, and non-governmental organisation, accountants are ideally positioned to help organisations assess and manage these new risks. Accountants have an important role to play improving an organisation’s integrated thinking and decision-making capabilities to promote responsible business practices, improving outcomes for both stakeholders and our environment.”
Michael Izza, chief executive of ICAEW, says: “As we face the climate emergency head on, it’s crucial we Chartered Accountants use our unique position as advisers to business and policymakers to make the case for sustainability. Chartered accountants bring practical skills like measurement and management to the table, and can work with business to build green policies into their working practices. We need to make this a decade of transition for business; failure to make this move will make the inevitable adjustments required much more difficult.”
J Bruce Cartwright, chief executive of ICAS, says: “There are dramatic implications for failing to tackle climate change – environmental, social and economic. It is our future that is at risk, and the urgency at which we are required to act must remain front of mind. ICAS is working with fellow accountancy bodies to act now to limit the negative effects of climate change. As a profession we can do this by utilising our professional skills and expertise to support the organisations that we work with to tackle the climate crisis. Our individual actions, collectively, have the ability to make a difference.”
Clare Hierons is chief operating officer at Accounting for Sustainability.