Accountants “core” to net zero efforts, industry bodies argue

Accountants have significant influence and responsibility in the global effort to tackle climate change, according to a group of 13 industry bodies representing over 2.5 million professional accountants and students worldwide.

The group, which includes the Association for Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the Institute for Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), has publicly committed to helping the industry reach net zero emissions “as soon as possible”, and intends to publish more detailed plans for how to achieve this within the next 12 months.

“It is now abundantly clear that to address these risks, we must work together and lead the accounting profession by example,” said Barry Melancon, CEO at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.

“Public and management accountants have an important role to play in improving an organisation’s integrated thinking and decision-making capabilities to promote responsible and sustainable business practices.”

Together, the 13 industry associations form the Accounting Bodies Network (ABN) – an initiative formed by the Accounting for Sustainability (A4S) action group, which was founded by The Prince of Wales in 2004. Its aim is to transform finance and drive a fundamental shift towards resilient business models and a sustainable economy, it says.

According to the ABN, a key part of the commitment is providing “an enabling environment” for its respective members. As part of this, it has pledged to implement a series of new training and infrastructure initiatives in order to support members and realise its objectives.

“We will continue to look for ways to minimise our carbon footprint, guide our members on their own net zero journeys and support global action,” said Michael Izza, chief executive at the ICAEW.

“The fight against climate change requires urgent global action, so we were pleased to join our fellow bodies from around the world to confirm our commitment to a zero-carbon society.”

Similar remarks were made by J Bruce Cartwright, chief executive at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS). The accountancy profession can be a “key enabler” in the transition to a net zero economy, he argued.

“ICAS is proud to be a signatory to the ABN commitment, and to commit to provide training, support and resources to help our members establish their own net zero pathways.

“I believe if we pool our collective efforts and resources we can achieve our climate change ambitions and make the creation of a healthy and sustainable planet a reality for future generations.”

The fresh commitment follows on from a call to action which was signed by the ABN in 2020. The official statement included eight action points for accountants to implement in response to the global climate emergency, noting that climate change represents an “economic, social and business risk”.

This was touched on by Heather Hill, president at the Association for Accounting Technicians (ATT), in response to the new net zero commitment.

“Following the 2020 call to action by the professional accounting bodies […] we will continue our organisational activity to improve our carbon footprint, but to also help equip our members to engage in this crucial collective effort, and to bring our influence to bear on the government where appropriate.”

According to A4S, the next decade is “critical” to limit the negative effects of climate change – this forms the basis for the new initiative, it said in a statement.

A4S goes on to argue that global emissions must halve by 2030 and drop to net zero by the middle of the century in order to create the best chance of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.

The accountancy bodies that have signed up to the commitment are: Association for Accounting Technicians, Association for Chartered Certified Accountants, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, Chartered Accountants Ireland, Consiglio Nazionale dei Dottori commecialisti e degli Esperti Contabili, Chartered Professional Accountants Australia, Chartered Professional Accountants Canada, Institute for Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, Institut der Wirtschaftsprüfer in Deutschland e.V., Regnskap Norge, the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, the Japanese Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

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