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CAs can help save the world

By Bruce Cartwright CA

While my recent blogs have discussed the importance of the debate that’s currently engulfing UK audit, this rather fades into insignificance when we consider what’s happening to our planet.

According to the IPCC we only have 12 years to restrict global warming to a 1.5° Celsius rise else we will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for millions of people.

An increase of more than 1.5° C will have a catastrophic effect on our oceans, coral reefs and coastal towns.

There are dramatic implications for failing to tackle climate change. But what does this have to do with accountants?

You only need to glance at day one of this year’s WCOA programme to find out. ‘Can Accountants Save the World?’ was the title of a seminar by Jessica Fries from The Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project (A4S), while ‘Climate change and the role of accountants in creating adaptive organisations’ was discussed by Gordon Beal of CPA Canada.

His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales first raised the issue of climate change back in the 1970s. In 2004 he established A4S. It had one goal – to make sustainable decision-making normal. Four years later, A4S Accounting Bodies Network was formed; ICAS is an original member.

This week I attended the annual A4S forum where we discussed how far we have come to embedding sustainability within our decision-making processes. We shared the news that ICAS and SEPA, Scotland’s Environmental Protection Agency, have launched a new working group to help businesses integrate the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) into their day-to-day work.

It was clear from the discussion that there has been progress over the last 40 years to tackle some problems such as deforestation, extreme weather events and the excessive consumption of our natural resources. But more needs to be done.

We are already witnessing signs of the increase in extreme environmental events both in the UK and globally from flooding in coastal towns to the recent wildfires in California. These events devastate lives and have significant financial implications.

The accounting profession has a key role in raising awareness and changing behaviour to tackle the issue of climate change, both at a corporate level and individually.

The capacity for each one of us to make a difference is not mere rhetoric. Sandy Manson calls upon individual CAs to summon the moral courage to help change corporate culture in his forthcoming President’s column, while this year’s One Young CA winner, Michael Scott, encourages each one of us to adopt an SDG so that with our own small actions we may contribute to the solution. Their message is clear: each one of us can make a difference.

At a corporate level, the Task Force for the Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) encourages the finance profession to voluntarily include the risks, and opportunities that climate change presents to their organisations through their reporting mechanisms.

In 2017, ICAS pledged its support for the recommendations of the TCFD and we have continued to play our part in highlighting the potential risks, both financially, and on society, to our members and the wider public. We do this through the ICAS Sustainability Panel, which informs and educates our members of the importance of embedding sustainable behaviour throughout their personal and working lives.

I would like to add my voice to Sandy and Michael’s in underlining the importance of our individual actions. If each one of us acts now, maybe we can fulfil the vision that accountants really can help save the world.

This article was originally published by ICAS.