Accounting organizations around the world urge action on climate change

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Leaders of accounting organizations across the globe are calling on the profession to put sustainability and the fight against climate change at the forefront of their work.

Groups including the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) and CPA Canada issued a joint declaration Tuesday as part of Prince Charles’s Accounting for Sustainability Project (A4S) Accounting Bodies Network, which collectively represents over 2.5 million accountants worldwide.

“The accounting profession has long focused on assessing and managing financial risks,” said AICPA president and CEO Barry Melancon (pictured), in a statement. “However, the global risks we are seeing today, in particular environment-related risks, are pushing our profession to expand its remit. As core members of almost every business, government, and non-governmental organisation, accountants are ideally positioned to help organisations assess and manage these new risks. Accountants have an important role to play improving an organisation’s integrated thinking and decision-making capabilities to promote responsible business practices, improving outcomes for both stakeholders and our environment.”

Among the groups calling for greater action on climate change are the five major U.K.-based accounting bodies, including the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS). Other signatories include the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ), Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI), Consiglio Nazionale dei Dottori commercialisti e degli Esperti Contabili (CNDCEC), CPA Australia, Institut der Wirtschaftsprüfer in Deutschland e.V. (IDW), Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS), the Japanese Institute of Certified Public Accountants (JICPA) and Regnskap Norge/Accounting Norway.

The accounting groups said their members have a crucial role to play to affect meaningful change because of their expertise with advising businesses about risk management and their responsibility to act in the public interest. An accountant’s role should demonstrate the risks to business posed by climate change, including the impact of flooding and drought on the price of crops needed in the supply chain. They noted that tackling climate change requires practical measurement and management. Accountants are key to assisting businesses in building sustainability into their working practices, commercial relationships and supply chains, the accountancy leaders explained. That’s especially important with the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) set to take place in the U.K. this year.

“This is a call to action not just for accountants, but also for the professional bodies of which they are members,” said ACCA chief executive Helen Brand in a statement. “We all have an immense role to play here, and alongside my colleagues we all sign up to three proactive commitments that will help our members and future members rise to the challenge.”

Those commitments include:

  • Providing members with the training, support and infrastructure they need to apply their skills to the challenge;
  • Supporting relevant market-based policy initiatives and incentives, consistent and well-considered regulation, and more useful disclosure; and
  • Providing sound advice to help governments to create the policy and regulatory infrastructure necessary for a just transition to a net zero carbon economy.
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International accounting AICPA ACCA IFAC Barry Melancon