ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), the global body for professional accountants, has called for its members to champion the ethical standards and sustainable business practices that will build organisations that deliver more than shareholder profit.
Its new report, Accountants, Purpose and Sustainable Organisations, concludes that accountants should be central to advising their organisations on sustainable development that will be focused on wider measures than traditional ‘balance sheet’ ones that deliver broader stakeholder value, thinking beyond investors.
Accountants should adapt to new and challenging situations, such as Covid-19 and Brexit, in order to help their organisations to find new sustainable value across social and public interest metrics, as well as advising on tax, financial and performance management.
The report, authored by Sharon Machado, a Fellow of ACCA and its portfolio head of business reporting, highlights the role of the profession in helping organisations to navigate dynamic forces of changes that generate both opportunity and risk.
However, it suggests that a wider view is now needed if accountants are to fulfil their true value and highlights how they advocate on improving ethical and educational standards, good corporate governance and regulation, improved financial literacy across the world and international trade development.
The report asserts that accountants are well-placed to take up this important and influential role because the profession is trusted on public interest issues, due to its reputation for ethics, expertise and connectivity – three interconnected features of the profession that ensure this much-needed trust, especially as some countries begin tentative steps to come out of their lockdowns due to Covid-19, and restart their economies.
Sharon Machado says: ‘Individually ethics, expertise and connectivity are not unique to the accountancy profession, but together they support ACCA’s view that the profession’s well-placed to help build and sustain organisational and societal value – the true purpose of the profession.
‘Sustainable organisations are creating business models that generate long term value, not just for the organisation, but for wider society too. Today’s and tomorrow’s society demands inclusivity and accountability, it seeks trust and confidence in organisations, and assurance that their activities are for the greater long term good of their society and all their stakeholders and not just focused on generating short term profits for shareholders.’
The report points out that businesses find themselves in a period of rapid change and must transform to adapt and prosper. They are expected to be good corporate citizens and to be valued for their contribution to society as well as their financial strength. This is backed up by regulatory scrutiny.
Technology is also revolutionising business and finance capability, with more automation freeing accountants to concentrate more of their time on strategic work. And there is a greater emphasis on Sustainable Development Goals and what they mean for business practices.
Sharon Machado concludes: ‘ACCA believes that now’s the time for the profession to re-imagine its role in this constantly moving business and social world and to start the brave conversation about how finance professionals can help to reinvent the way organisations consider sustainability.’