Accountants reveal deep concerns about environment – and call for organisations to do more

A global survey of 829 accountants and finance professionals reveals their deep concerns about social and environmental issues, with 90 per cent of respondents saying they want organisations to increase efforts to become more environmentally sustainable and make a more positive impact on society after the pandemic.

The survey was conducted by ACCA – (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), and also reveals the desire of accountants to spearhead this change, with 95 per cent agreeing finance teams have a role to play in building a more socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable future.

These findings come when 2020 has seen record-breaking temperature devastating fires and flooding, and the severe impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic which has worsened existing socio-economic inequalities and reinforced the fragilities of the natural world.

In ACCA’s survey, respondents admit their own organisations need to change to do more to address social inequalities (75 per cent), and to do less damage to the environment (85 per cent).

But just over half – 54 per cent – said they considered they had the skills and training to address social and environmental impact management in their organisation. Many stressed the barriers they face including potential costs, lack of senior management buy-in and too narrow a focus on financial returns.

Given perceived leadership barriers, respondents saw their role as being one of partnering with others in a supporting role, helping them achieve objectives by providing the right kind of help for their organisations. Other results show that 25 per cent did not know whether their finance team was involved in addressing social or environmental impacts or knew that finance was not involved.

Over three-fifths of respondents agreed that professional accountants should be involved in understanding social and environmental impacts and dependencies, prioritising creating positive social impact alongside financial returns and in improving risk management of social and environmental issues.

Climate change was deemed most important in Europe by 26 per cent of respondents, the highest response for this issue globally.

Jimmy Greer, ACCA’s head of sustainability said: “‘ACCA’s call to action for all organisations is for them to commit to building better impact management into their processes to create value – they need to make board level governance commitment to additional and intentional social and environmental positive impact creation. And they also must allocate resources within finance teams and across organisations to build decision-making capabilities related to environmental and social impact.”