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ACCA stresses the importance of sustainability in accountancy

A pile of coins with a plant growing from the middle

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants has released a new policy paper (October 2014) underlining the role of the accountancy profession in ensuring organisations are responsible and accountable for sustainable development.

Sustainability Matters collates ACCA’s thinking on six key sustainability-related issues: Green Economy, Natural Capital, Climate Change, Sustainability Reporting, Integrated Reporting and the Assurance of Non-Financial Reporting and Disclosure.

Despite splitting the matters into six policy topics, they’re acknowledged as being interrelated and a part of the wider ethics in accountancy subject. The role of ethics and corporate governance in accountancy qualifications has been increasing, and ACCA have dedicated an entire module to professional ethics (available once students begin P1, Governance, Risk and Ethics). Enthusiastic students should certainly delve into ACCA’s hub of Sustainability Matters to get to grips with current hot topics.

Helen Brand OBE, ACCA’s chief executive, explained: "Accountants are well placed to use their skills and experience and apply these to help achieve a more sustainable future. Their professional skill-set in developing metrics, information systems, reporting and designing economic instruments, among other business attributes, will help make our economy greener, our companies more accountable, and achieve global and national measures that look beyond economic output to factor in non-traditional measures, such as human well-being and natural capital.

In addition, the recent experience in developing the international financial reporting standards can be shared to develop global sustainability reporting standards and frameworks."

ACCA believe that over time the breadth of this paper will increase and additional topics will be added. After years of delivering ACCA training Kaplan Financial have developed various aids to encourage students to think deeper about corporate codes of ethics, basic ethical theories and corporate social responsibility in both their exams and their employment.

Dr Andrea Coulson, Chair of ACCA’s Global Forum for Sustainability and Senior Lecturer in Accounting at University of Strathclyde says: "As we face the increasing challenges of climate adaptation, social inequality, protecting human rights and a natural balance, the engagement of accountants in addressing these issues is critical.

These policies reflect what ACCA sees as being the very real and material issues confronting business and the profession – and ultimately ACCA believe that accountants can and will rise to these challenges."

Before you write-off ethics as mere guidelines you must reference from time to time, we’ll draw your attention to the 3 Practical Experience Requirements of the P1 paper:

  1. Demonstrate the application of professional ethics, values and judgement.
  2. Contribute to the effective governance of an organisation.
  3. Raise awareness of non-financial risk.

So not only are ACCA’s public policies and published research activities a reference for their own stakeholders, but valuable insight into true best practice for any ACCA student yet to complete their Practical Experience with their employer.