Converging, interconnected issues, including the changing finance landscape, have brought sustainable finance and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to the fore as a unifying global agenda for countries, companies, investors and civil society to pursue. In 2015, landmark international agreements were established with the adoption of the UN 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement, which includes the commitment to align financial flows with a pathway towards low-carbon and climate-resilient development.
Maggie McGhee, director of Professional Insights at ACCA says: ‘Today, with the publication of its Action Plan, the European Commission is offering to provide global leadership in setting the benchmark for sustainable finance, as a move towards the global sustainable development agenda. The newly published Action plan has indeed the potential to act as blueprint for international action towards a more sustainable economy and financial system. But this will need international buy-in, at all levels’.
ACCA believes that accountants are in a unique position to make real, impactful change and be at the centre of delivering on sustainable finance commitments and SDGs.
Maggie McGhee explains: ‘From reporting on CO2 emissions to measuring social impact, the skills, judgement and all-round, data-informed view of business possessed by professional accountants make them a catalyst for delivering this greater stability and wider prosperity. Professional accountants have been bold pioneers for creating mechanisms for robust and comparable wider reporting. Because of visionaries within the accountancy field, we now have a number of useful frameworks for measuring, monitoring and reporting on non-financial information. This has enabled companies and organisations to benchmark against each other and leading to continuous improvement.
‘But we cannot be complacent, and we hear concerns that the current accounting rules may not be sufficiently conducive to sustainable investment decision making. The debate is open, and ACCA will take part in the European Commission fitness check on public corporate reporting. We also look forward to the revised guidelines on the way companies could disclose climate related and use climate-related metrics taking into account the EU Sustainability Taxonomy.
‘Many businesses already realise that tackling sustainability now will build a more prosperous future. A well-managed business in the 21st century is one which has a holistic view, and which acknowledges the depletion of non-sustainable assets and the downsides of non-sustainable practices. This is why we share the European Commission’s view that corporate governance can be an effective tool for making businesses more sustainable, and look forward to its assessment of possible ways to foster robust corporate governance, conducive to sustainable finance. In the same vein, we welcome the idea of a proposal clarifying asset managers and institutional investors’ duties to take sustainability into account in the investment process. It presents both risk and opportunity, and it is natural to ask investors why they shouldn’t take the issue into account, if they are taking into account all other factors that affect the success of a business?’, Maggie McGhee adds.
ACCA also commends the proposal to create a European Corporate Reporting Lab as part of EFRAG’s activities. Maggie McGhee notes: ‘This could be a way to improve all sorts of aspects of corporate reporting from financial disclosures, the issues raised by technology to questions about how we fit sustainability measures into traditional corporate reporting structures.
‘In order to shed some light on the issue, ACCA, together with the EBRD and Barclays are organising on 15 May in Brussels a multi-stakeholder conference called “Empowering businesses to engage with sustainable finance and the SDGs”, to discuss the alignment of business strategies and corporate reporting contribution in meeting the SDGs and sustainable finance objectives’, Maggie McGhee concludes.
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Notes to Editors
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ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants, offering business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management.
ACCA supports its 200,000 members and 486,000 students in 180 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. ACCA works through a network of 101 offices and centres and more than 7,200 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through its public interest remit, ACCA promotes appropriate regulation of accounting and conducts relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence.
ACCA is currently introducing major innovations to its flagship qualification to ensure its members and future members continue to be the most valued, up to date and sought-after accountancy professionals globally.