...What are the skills and education needed for finance professionals to play their part?
About the event
On 17 May 2022, global and EU experts discussed the skills and education need for finance professionals to play their part in contributing to the Green Transition at joint ACCA, IFAC and Green Finance Platform event during the EU Skills Week 2022, attended by over 420 participants
You can watch the event recording online:
EU Skills Week-VET and the Green Transition: what are the skills and education needed for finance professionals to play their part? - event video
As part of EU Skills Week 2022, ACCA, IFAC and Green Finance Platform discussed with renowned experts from the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Investment Fund, academics and the accountancy profession what are the skills and education needed for finance professionals to play their part in contributing to the Green Transition.
After a welcome address by Helen Brand, OBE, Chief Executive of ACCA and a keynote speech by Victor Negrescu, MEP, the panel discussion moderated by Helen Partridge, Director of International Accountancy Education at IFAC welcomed Julie Fionda, Deputy Head of the Unit in charge of the Skills Agenda at the European Commission; Jeremy McDaniels, Senior Advisor on Sustainable Finance at the Institute of International Finance (IIF); Nancy Kamp - Roelands, Professor of Non-financial information, integrated reporting and assurance at the University of Groningen; and Thomas Verheye, Principal Advisor Green Finance and Investment at the European Commission, currently seconded to the European Investment Fund (EIF) . Concluding remarks were delivered by Alan Johnson, President of IFAC.
Discussions confirmed that it is imperative that everyone plays a role towards the Green Transition and that cooperation and partnerships will be key. The accountancy profession is ready to take up the challenge of sustainability information, but it needs to acquire new knowledge, to broaden its perspective on enterprise value to a more holistic view and enhance our skills, since sustainability information is much more strategic, covering a wide range of topics and related indicators. Bringing the professions together to accelerate the pace of knowledge acquisition and upskilling of both finance professionals and professional accountants we will be able to drive or even lead sustainable decision making in our organizations.
Helen Brand, OBE, Chief Executive at ACCA set the scene: ‘As climate and environmental risks become a core component of mainstream business, everyone within the organisation needs to understand how their own work can contribute and will be affected. This is particularly important for accounting and finance professionals, who have a critical role to play in putting sustainability at the heart of decision-making, both to lead on enhanced risk management and long-term value creation, and to champion responsible practices. To make sure they have the right tools to do so, they must be equipped with the right education and skills, to in turn, instill this sustainability culture in the companies they work for or advise. As the EU co-legislators are debating the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive and the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence initiative, there is no doubt that finance professionals will also need to continue their own sustainable business education as policies and regulation change, while best practice evolves at a rapid pace. There are several ways in which ACCA helps the profession develop the required skills: in being a role model; in developing future members through the qualification; in maintaining and enhancing the capabilities of members through lifelong learning; and also in publishing research and insights and providing policy and technical support.’Read more about the event
Victor Negrescu, MEP: said ‘Skills are at the core of our economies and of our own individual professional careers. Skills today could be compared with a cryptocurrency: they are attractive, we know that they are important, but we also know that they can be misused. We need to bring sustainability in the process to make sure they remain attractive, and not declining. We cannot simply plan for programs of skilling and upskilling at EU’s level, from an office somewhere in Brussels. We need to go on the ground, and for that we need to create concrete partnerships. We have to be ambitious, but also coherent and make sure that we are not increasing the inequalities and the gaps currently existing in Europe and at global level.’
Helen Partridge, Director of International Accountancy Education at IFAC, who moderated the debate said: ‘The call to the finance and accounting profession is clear. If we don't act, we will lose opportunities. One, to remain relevant to the world around us. Two, to attract individuals to the profession who have a desire to have an impact on the world and the way organizations operate with respect to ESG elements. And three, to meet our mandate of acting in the public interest in their reliance on information produced and published within and by organizations. We must acknowledge the need and the opportunities of putting to use our existing skills and competencies, as well as the integrity the professions are known for. There is still a need to acquire knowledge, but this continuous learning mindset is not new to us.’
Julie Fionda, Deputy Head of Unit in charge of the Skills Agenda at the European Commission said : ‘The European Commission’s approach to skills for the green transition in set in the European Skills Agenda, launched in July 2020. The European Commission published an ESCO taxonomy of skills for the green transition which identifies 381 skills, 185 knowledge concepts and 5 transversal skills considered as most relevant on a greener labour market. The Commission also proposed initiatives such as the Taxonomy Regulation and the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, and EFRAG’s work on sustainability standards have fed into how we’ve defined these ESCO skills and knowledge concepts related to green bonds and sustainable reporting. To help those designing education and training programmes, and people in identifying their strengths and weaknesses, we’ve developed GreenComp. The Commission also issued a Recommendation on learning for environmental sustainability, for which adoption is expected soon, which aims to propose a shared vision of changes needed in education and training for the green transition and develop a coherent approach on competences, skills and attitudes. On funding, the Recovery and Resilience Plans include reforms related to green skills and green jobs amounting to EUR 1.5 billion, covering investments contributing to reskilling and upskilling initiatives, as well as reforms on developing and implementing new targeted active employment policy measures for the needs of the green transition, including educational policies’.
Jeremy McDaniels, Senior Policy Advisor on Sustainable Finance at the Institute of International Finance’s Global Policy Initiatives department said: ‘To respond to dynamic challenges arising in the transition to a net-zero economy, financial institutions need to deliver ambitious actions that meet commitments, broaden capacities in emerging areas, measure and disclose risks and opportunities to stakeholders, while managing an array of official sector requirements. Financial markets will also need to contend with the development of new frameworks to integrate key sustainability priorities into financial decision-making, such as biodiversity and social justice. While needs will vary in terms of business activities and functions, all professionals will need an understanding what is at stake, capacities in managing uncertainty and dynamic environments, and the skills to working collaboratively towards common goals across stakeholder groups.’
Nancy Kamp - Roelands, Professor of Non-financial information, integrated reporting and assurance at the University of Groningen, stressed: ‘During my 30 years in the field, standard-setting and education, I experienced that additional skills are needed. To note just a few, these could include the ability to connect long term societal challenges to business operations and identify the kind of information that is needed for decision-making internally and for accountability externally; the ability to look at the concept of value in multiple capitals rather than the concept of financial value; the ability to not just look at data in isolation, but to see this in the broader context of strategy and actions in short, medium and long term; the ability to measure, monitor and report on a variety of indicators; the ability to look beyond the organization’s borders and acknowledging that key impacts caused may find there root cause in the value-chain and the impact on collecting data in the value-chain’.
Thomas Verheye, Principal Advisor Green Finance and Investment at European Commission, seconded to the European Investment Fund (EIF) to help them greening their business explained: Principal Advisor Green Finance and Investment at European Commission, seconded to the European Investment Fund (EIF) explained: ‘Accountants and accounting will be quintessential for making the green transition a reality, i.e. for overcoming the prevailing silo-based approaches in tackling the sustainability challenge, bringing actionable information to the economic and financial decision-makers that currently struggle to translate the sustainability jargon in a corporate management context, and for ensuring the green transition is inclusive (by not only ‘growing the green’ but also ‘greening the grey’ part of the economy)’. He also called for ‘a charter to shape a programme that would lead to a robust curriculum and certification and that would allow building up experience through impact accounting partnerships. This Charter could possibly pick-up on efforts to promote standardized natural capital accounting (and not just reporting schemes) and ESCO skills (EC, others); cover corporate impacts and dependencies (also for better risk management); and cover all key environmental areas. It should serve to integrate sustainability in management accounting and related financial planning and decision making; be relevant and thus applicable internationally, creating a common basis for tackling sustainability through the supply or value chain. Even if the programme would initially only reach accountants working in accounting firms (big and small), it could be the quickest road to equipping our SMEs for tackling the sustainability challenge.’
Alan Johnson, President of IFAC concluded: ‘We see that the accountancy profession does remain relevant and does contribute to achieving a swift and transparent transition to an equitable and sustainable economy. The toolkit of today's accounting and finance professionals already includes many of the skills and the competencies required to effectively use sustainability standards and frameworks. Of course, there are sustainability related services that call for skills and competences beyond these, often with greater specific knowledge and expertise in working with certain non-financial information. However, the knowledge gap – the difference between the skills and competences that we have today versus what we need for tomorrow – is relatively narrow compared to other professions. Our broad skill set is an exceptionally strong starting point for attaining the new skills for the green transition. We will also need to grasp to new technical knowledge. And in addition to specific skills, we will find a large and growing demand for more comprehensive additions to our skills and competencies, both internally as preparers and externally as assurers. The assurance of sustainability reports are quickly becoming an essential function of our profession.’
OBE, Chief Executive, ACCA
Director of International Accountancy Education at IFAC
Deputy Head of Unit, Skills and Qualification, DG EMPL, European Commission
Senior Advisor, Sustainable Finance, IIF
Nancy Kamp - Roelands
Professor Non-financial information, integrated reporting and assurance at the University of Groningen
Principal Advisor Green Finance and Investment at the European Commission and the European Investment Fund (EIF)
Helen Brand OBE
Chief Executive, ACCA
Helen Brand is chief executive of ACCA, the global body for professional accountants, a post she has held since 2008.
Helen has built her career within professional bodies and has considerable experience and knowledge of the 176 markets in which ACCA currently operates.Read more about Helen Brand
She is a founding member of the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) and now serves as a co-Vice-Chair of the Value Reporting Foundation Board. A member of the UK government’s Professional and Business Services Council, she was also appointed to the UK DIT’s Trade Advisory Group on Professional Advisory Services in August 2020.
One of the few women to lead a global professional body, Helen is a regular media commentator on the role ethics and the delivery of public value play in business and society. In 2011, ACCA became the first international professional body to publish an integrated report on its performance and Helen remains a strong advocate for the power of wider corporate reporting. She has also driven ACCA’s pioneering work in supporting the development of the profession across Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
Helen holds a BA in Politics from the University of Exeter. She was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in June 2011 for services to accountancy and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Exeter in December 2017.
Victor Negrescu MEP
Victor Negrescu is a Romanian politician, member of the Social Democratic Party, the youngest Romanian MEP elected at the European Parliament in May 2014. He is an active Member in the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament and a permanent Member of the Committee on Budgets and the Delegation to the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly.Read more about Victor Negrescu
He is also a Substitute Member in the Committee on Legal Affairs, Committee on Constitutional Affairs, Delegation for relations with Canada.
Victor Negrescu came to the Parliament with a set of projects aimed at facilitating access to European funds for EU Member States, the promotion of European Guarantee for Health and standardization requirements of EU education systems so that students from Member States should not be forced anymore to equate their studies.
He is the initiator in Brussels of the project called “Delegation of Transylvania and Banat” close to the European Union, which promotes local values of the region of Transylvania in the European Parliament. He is the first Romanian MEP who brought in discussion and analysis a Pilot Project – Access to Health for people in rural areas.
Director of International Accountancy Education at IFAC
Helen Partridge leads the accountancy education work at IFAC. In this role, she has oversight and leadership of IFAC’s global approach to advancing accountancy education working together with the International Panel on Accountancy Education.Read more about Helen Partridge
Advancing accountancy education is integral to IFAC’s vision of a dynamic, future-focused global profession that is essential to strong, sustainable organizations, financial markets, and economies. Competent and credible professional accountants, committed to lifelong learning, underpin this vision.
Prior to joining IFAC, Helen was an accountant in practice, having spent 16 years in audit, advisory and audit systems design in the US and Asia Pacific. She has also served in the controllership at a large multinational transportation company working with GAAP conversions, financial statement preparations and complex and significant transactions such as business combinations and tax planning. In addition, Helen presently serves two not-for-profit boards and is a CPA licensed in multiple states in the United States.
Deputy Head of Unit, Skills and Qualifications
DG EMPL European Commission
Julie Fionda is a British official working in the European Commission since 2002. She has a background in economics and she is currently Deputy Head of Unit in the DG Employment, Skills Agenda unit.Read more about Julie Fionda
She was in 2014-2018 Member of the Cabinet of Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility. Earlier roles in the Commission have focused on higher education policy, on the European Semester of policy co-ordination and on management of the European Social Fund.
Prior to joining the European Commission, Julie worked in the UK administration on regional development and social inclusion initiatives.
Senior Advisor, Sustainable Finance, IIF
Jeremy McDaniels serves as Senior Policy Advisor, Sustainable Finance, in the IIF Global Policy Initiatives department. In this role, Jeremy is responsible for the IIF's Sustainable Finance Working Group (SFWG), leading projects on climate risk assessment, disclosure, terminology and definitions.Read more about Jeremy McDaniels
Jeremy also supports the IIF’s engagement on sustainable finance policy and regulatory issues with international standard-setting entities (e.g. BCBS, IAIS, IOSCO), leadership coalitions (e.g. NGFS, SIF, IPSF), governments, regulators, and multilateral entities.
Prior to joining the IIF, Jeremy worked with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), where he led a portfolio of strategic programs on sustainable finance issues. While at UNEP, he served as Head of Secretariat of the Sustainable Insurance Forum (SIF), and was co-founder of the International Network of Financial Centres for Sustainability (FC4S). As a member of the UNEP Inquiry on Sustainable Finance, Jeremy supported the G20 Green Finance Study Group, and contributed to the development of sustainable finance strategies in over 10 countries. Prior to joining UNEP, Jeremy worked as a management consultant and an academic researcher, publishing research on climate risks and stranded assets.
Jeremy holds an M.S. in Environmental Management (Dist.) from the University of Oxford, where he specialized in energy economics. He received his B.A. from the University of British Columbia, majoring in Economic Geography.
Nancy Kamp - Roelands
Professor Non-financial Information, Integrated Reporting and Assurance
the University of Groningen
Nancy Kamp-Roelands is a professor non-financial information, integrated reporting and assurance at the University of Groningen. She initiated an online course on sustainable entrepreneurship for accountancy and finance professionals and is teaching in the postgraduate course Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) Reporting and Assurance at the University of Groningen Business School.Read more about Nancy Kamp-Roelands
She is a certified public accountant, that specialized in the early nineties in sustainability. She brings a unique combination of client experience with large multinational organizations, (inter)national standard setting and academic research/teaching. She was earlier an associate partner at EY. Until November 2021 she was a member of EFRAG’s Corporate Reporting Lab. From 2013-2016 she was a deputy director at the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board. Currently she is also a member of the committee Reporting and Accountancy of the Dutch Authority Financial Markets and a director at the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities that promotes the interaction between science and society.
Principal Advisor Green Finance and Investment
at the European Commission and the European Investment Fund (EIF)
Thomas Verheye is Special Advisor at the European Investment Fund on matters relating to sustainable finance and investment. He advises the Director General and senior managers on strategic directions and actions necessary for promoting greening the financial system and the economy.Read more about Thomas Verhaye
His prior positions include several other managerial responsibilities at the Commission including for EU policies on air quality, ozone depleting substances and fluorinated gases, innovative financing solutions relating to climate and energy, technology transfer under the UNFCCC, the auto-oil programme, etc. Previous employers include the Bank of New York (VP corporate action at the bank’s global custody branch), the International Monetary Fund (Treasurer’s department), and Ernst & Young (Audit). He holds a bachelor and master’s degree in business economics from the University of Ghent, and an MSc in audit and tax from the Vlerick Business School.
Alan Johnson became IFAC President in November 2020, having previously served as Deputy President from 2018-2020 and aboard member since November 2015. He was nominated to the IFAC board by the ACCA.Read more about Alan Johnson
On January 1, 2021, Mr. Johnson was appointed a non-executive director and member of the Audit and the Succession & Appointments Committees of Imperial Brands plc, a FTSE 100 company in the UK. He is a former non-executive Director of Jerónimo Martins SGPS, S.A., a food retailer with operations in Portugal, Poland, and Colombia, having completed his board mandate in 2016. He is currently the independent chairman of the company's Internal Control Committee. Previously he was Chief Financial Officer of Jerónimo Martins from 2012 to 2014. Between 2005 and 2011 he served as Chief Audit Executive for the Unilever Group. Mr. Johnson also served as Chief Financial Officer of Unilever's Global Foods businesses and worked for Unilever for 35 years in various finance positions in Africa, Europe and Latin America.
Mr. Johnson was a member of the IFAC Professional Accountants in Business Committee between 2011 and 2015, a member of the ACCA's Market Oversight Committee between 2006 and 2012 and chair of the Accountants for Business Global Forum until 2018. He was a member of the board of Gildat Strauss Israel between 2003 and 2004. Mr. Johnson is the chair of the board of governors of St. Julian’s School in Portugal and chairs its Finance & Bursaries Committees. In October 2016 he was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the International Valuation Standards Council and chairs its audit committee. Between July 2018 and September 2020 he was a non-executive director of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and chaired its Audit & Risk Assurance Committee.