Finance functions need to be the agents of change in the US' business sustainability roll-out

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    Jasleen Kour
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COP26 may have focused on big business but small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) make up the engine of America's economy This is why ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and CA ANZ (Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand) are equipping accountants with a new playbook to help them and their SME clients achieve their sustainability goals

How SMEs can create a more sustainable world details the benefits that sustainable actions have for both business success and the environment The playbook sets out practical steps for embedding sustainable practices within SMEs case studies from across the world and links to a variety of tools and resources

Given SMEs make up 90% of the global economy as well improvements in their sustainability practices are vital to addressing worldwide environmental and social challenges

The playbook contains guidance from over 30 businesses both from SMEs SMPs (small and medium sized practices) and bigger businesses who work closely with them including The Balcony Garden Sage Taylors Wines Intuit Xero WE Accounting as well as professional accountants and business leaders from around the world

The playbook outlines how the following can make a difference:

  • Reshaping business models and reimagining the future: Explaining what sustainable development is setting out the business case for sustainability and illustrating the role of the profession
  • Acting with urgency on climate change in particular: Guidance on how to have the conversation about climate change illustrating the need for urgent action and explaining what is happening globally
  • Considering sustainability in business operations and every decision made: Demonstrating different ways action can be taken to address challenges such as reducing emission levels (including how to set targets and measure emissions) waste and inequality
  • Adopting sustainability goals: Explaining science-based targets the Paris Agreement the United Nation's SDGs and create ambitious strategies for sustainable future growth
  • Bringing integrity to the process: How to ensure integrity in the transformation to sustainability by taking a principles-based approach

Julie Missimore ACCA's head of USA policy says We are really pleased to launch this playbook during such a critical time in the climate change agenda COP26 was a couple of weeks ago and what is clear is business as usual is no longer an option We face a climate emergency Sustainability is an urgent global project In the US SMEs make up a large part of the economy – so the small business community is definitely the drivers of change in the sustainability roll-out across the country

Helen Brand ACCA's chief executive says Governments having adopted ambitious sustainable development goals for the end of this decade are ramping up regulation to encourage and enforce 'green action'  Many of these businesses are on the edge of survival and these measures should not be a burden on SMEs already impacted by the pandemic Therefore it's very important to align recovery packages with sustainability incentives

She adds This playbook is essential in supporting SMEs with their sustainable transformations and reporting on these achievements

Tom Finn CFO at Streamline Healthcare Solutions in Chicago says Accountants are often over focused on the traditional financial statements but there are many other non-financial metrics that have a huge impact on finance Employee turnover employee satisfaction and pay gaps for example tell you just as much about the health and long-term sustainability of the business Employees are the biggest cost line for most businesses and looking after them therefore should be a priority The data for tracking employee satisfaction - in most cases - already exist within businesses

He adds Finance professionals are the oil that lubricates business and that's a positive thing but also a risk Finance can hinder sustainability if we do what we commonly do be conservative and see ourselves just as stewards of the business rather than agents of change

About ACCA
ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global professional body for professional accountants

We're a thriving global community of 233000 members and 536000 future members based in 178 countries and regions who work across a wide range of sectors and industries We uphold the highest professional and ethical values

We offer everyone everywhere the opportunity to experience a rewarding career in accountancy finance and management Our qualifications and learning opportunities develop strategic business leaders forward-thinking professionals with the financial business and digital expertise essential for the creation of sustainable organisations and flourishing societies

Since 1904 being a force for public good has been embedded in our purpose In December 2020 we made commitments to the UN Sustainable Development Goals which we are measuring and will report on in our annual integrated report

We believe that accountancy is a cornerstone profession of society and is vital helping economies organisations and individuals to grow and prosper It does this by creating robust trusted financial and business management combating corruption ensuring organisations are managed ethically driving sustainability and providing rewarding career opportunities

And through our cutting-edge research we lead the profession by answering today's questions and preparing for the future We're a not-for-profit organisation Find out more at accaglobalcom


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