The road to net zero for SMEs

Regulation, reporting and being a responsible business!

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James Lizars, Founder of Thrive Accountants and ACCA Council member, reflects on his time at Accountex London 2023 delivering sessions on the accountant’s role within responsible business and also the personal journey he has taken in the past year to beat the drum louder than ever for change!

This time last year, I was gutted.

I’d just left day two of Accountex, and it was eating at me that only two out of 180 seminars addressed the role of accountants in sustainability. I felt that our profession was asleep at the wheel, especially when it came to SMEs.

What I knew for sure was that accountants are uniquely placed to position the business case for net zero action. And that regulation impacting big business will inevitably, indirectly, drive net zero in SMEs.

That evening, I was the random lone guy.  Sitting in Leicester Square with a thousand-yard stare.

My head a swirl of ‘if not you, who?’, ‘if not now, when?’. Yeah, those questions.

And it all coalesced in the moment a busker transitioned into one of our wedding songs. I knew I wouldn’t be alone in what I was going to do. Thanks to my wife. 

I welled up. I’d resolved to keynote Accountex 2023 on how accountants can be the driving force behind net zero in business.

I'm not a public speaker.

I knew I’d need to go on a journey. Quickly build credibility, content and a practical call to action.

I started the next day and found an ally in Caroline Hobden, who runs Accountex.

We agreed on some next steps, and I’m so grateful for her support – this is what has happened over the last 12 months:

  • I entered Thrive Accountants for Sustainability Initiative of the Year at the IAF, and we won
  • I put myself forward for ACCA’s Global Council and was thrilled to be elected
  • I hosted a panel on B Corp at Accountex Manchester
  • I hosted a brilliantly well-attended session at the Accountex Virtual Summit with Adam Bastock on Net Zero, proving the appetite for the subject
  • I was invited onto the Xero – Beyond the Numbers podcast by Ash Gibson, alongside Ecologi’s Elliot Coad to talk all things trees and carbon accounting.

And then, over the last two days, I may not have got on the main stage, but did deliver THREE solo talks to around 130 finance professionals on ‘How Accountants Can Save The World’ and ‘The Road to Net Zero for SMEs’.

It was standing room only for the first. Even up against two celebrity speakers on the main stages.

And four practice owners approached me after the sessions expressing interest in joining the Million Tree Pledge.

The goal was never really about what stage I ended up on. It was always about finding platforms for pushing this message out to our profession.

An economic transition is in progress, driven by regulation. The only thing voluntary about net zero for SMEs is whether you move fast and seize the opportunities or ride out the risks of delaying.

I’m looking to bring together UK accountants and bookkeepers, curious about what net zero as a service might look like and how they can roll it out to their clients.

Please connect with me if you think that’s you.