Global survey of accountants reveals widespread disquiet at on-going failure to properly track environmental and social impacts
Accountants and financial professionals around the world are increasingly concerned about businesses' escalating environmental and social impacts, and are supportive of efforts to engineer a "sustainable recovery".
That is the conclusion of a new report from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), which surveyed 829 accountants and finance professionals globally and revealed overwhelming support for efforts to improve environmental performance across their organisations.
Nine out of 10 respondents said they wanted their organisations to increase efforts to become more environmentally sustainable and make a more positive impact on society after the pandemic.
Moreover, 95 per cent agreed finance teams had a role to play in building a "more socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable future".
TitledMainstreaming Impact: scaling a sustainable recovery, the report also revealed widespread concern about organisations' current performance.
Three quarters of respondents said their organisation needed to do more to address social inequalities, while 85 per cent said they needed to step up efforts to curb environmental damage.
However, just over half - 54 per cent - thought they had the skills and training necessary to address social and environmental impact management in their organisation.
Meanwhile, many respondents stressed that efforts to improve environmental and social performance they continued to face barriers, such as concerns over cost implications, lack of senior management buy-in, and too narrow a focus on financial returns.
Writing in the foreword to the report, Helen Brand, chief executive of ACCA, said accountants had "a huge role" to play in improving environmental performance, "because it's through professional education that accountants can support the transition to a net zero carbon world".
"We're committed to ensuring that sustainability and green finance is an integral part of our world-class qualification and members' CPD, supporting our members with a range of new online learning offerings on these important areas," she added.
Jimmy Greer, ACCA's head of sustainability, said there was now a unique opportunity to "mainstream social and environmental impact management, so that our economies and societies become more resilient to future shocks and can embed health, equity, community and sustainability into business models".
"Professional accountants and finance teams are central actors, with the skills, knowledge and ambition to do more," he added.
Greer said businesses should now seize the opportunity to monitor and manage their environmental and social impacts. "They need to make board level governance commitment to additional and intentional social and environmental positive impact creation," he advised. "And they also must allocate resources within finance teams and across organisations to build decision-making capabilities related to environmental and social impact."
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