The coming years will see Canadian business, policy makers and society at a tipping point in their relationship with the green economy, concludes a new report from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants).
The report discusses the issues around one fundamental question: 'Is Canada ready for the green economy?', concluding that the country is reaching a decisive moment, one where the accountancy profession has a critical role to play in ensuring that the outcome is not to the detriment of Canada’s future generations and the natural resources on which it depends.
The report gathers opinions from two ACCA-organised roundtables held earlier in the year in Vancouver and Toronto. Delegates at these events were asked what they and their organizations needed most to help them prepare for and participate in the green economy. Their top three priorities were:
- More guidance and tools are needed from relevant industry or professional bodies to improve the practical knowledge and skill of practitioners
- Market insights and trends analysis was also seen as important, to help clarify how the green economy is developing
- A better understanding is needed of Canada’s national and regional policy context and implications, and how these converge with each other and with the private sector.
Suzanne Godbehere, head of ACCA Canada says: 'The green economy demands our attention as we are reaching a critical and pivotal time – how far that balance goes will depend on the global market and its appetite for Canada’s raw materials, as much as on national and provincial priorities, choices and treaties here.'
Steven Fish, Executive Director at Canadian Business for Social Responsibility (CBSR) adds: 'ACCA’s report, ‘Canada and the green economy’ reinforces the critical role accountants have in embedding sustainability into business operations. They build the case, articulate the risk associated with ignoring global social and environmental challenges, and ultimately build CFO buy-in.'
Suzanne Godbehere continues: 'Governance and measurement is a key issue for Canada, especially when it comes to supporting treaties. 2011 and 2012 have been a challenging time for Canada on the international stage. In November 2011, Canada withdrew from the Kyoto Climate Treaty; Canada was also seen as one of the oil-producing countries that blocked a clause in phasing out fossil fuel subsidies at the Rio +20 Earth Summit. At a provincial level, challenges are being addressed, but on a federal level there are gaps.'
The report also includes case studies which illustrate the challenges faced by Canadian businesses when embracing the green economy. They are:
̶ Walmart’s Balzac refrigerated food distribution centre near Calgary is one of the greenest commercial buildings in the country, combining renewable power with smart design to radically reduce its environmental footprint.
̶ Better Place, whose Ontario pilot is helping to bring sustainable motoring to Canada through an integrated approach to electric vehicles, batteries, financing and charging infrastructure.
̶ Loblaw’s commitment to sustainable fish procurement and retailing has expanded the use of sustainability certification across many different species of seafood and earned the company significant recognition for its comprehensive efforts.
̶ Domtar and its efforts to ensure the sustainability credentials of its products and provide a full suite of sustainability information to buyers through its innovative Paper Trail online tool.
̶ Vancity’s support for its customers’ sustainability choices through auto loans, home improvement loans and green business financing that favours greener options.
Moving to the green economy was also seen as important by delegates. Suzanne Godbehere concludes: 'Canada faces its own particular challenges and opportunities when it comes to transitioning to a green economy. While the country has a huge wealth of natural capital, it is also highly diversified economically, and has proven resilient to external shocks. The part accountants play in addressing and helping with this transition is important – and thankfully the report asserts that they are now better briefed, equipped and ready to play their part in embracing the green economy in Canada.
'At both roundtables, there was a real sense that the accountancy profession holds the key to accurately valuing and embedding natural assets within the economy – they can help to inspire and enable the necessary transition and change.'