Sage, ICC and ACCA call on governments and big business to help SMBs join the race to Net Zero

According to new report, titled 'Think Small First', policymakers and large companies must standardise and simplify carbon reporting and accounting for SMBs or risk millions of businesses being left behind

·         The report highlights tangible steps that can be taken, through an integrated approach, to empower SMBs, remove existing administrative burdens and progress the global journey to Net Zero

·         Findings presented at COP26 session at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)Make Climate Action Everyone’s Business,” bringing together 10,000 SMBs, supply chain leaders and government officials to discuss next steps for real action

Small and medium businesses (SMBs) – the backbone of the global economy – risk being left behind in the race to Net Zero unless urgent action is taken to simplify carbon reporting and accounting. This is according to a new report from Sage, the market leader in cloud business management solutions, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).

The Think Small First report highlights how providing standardised SMB-friendly reporting frameworks could unlock significant progress on the journey to Net Zero, given the SMB sector represents over 90% of the global economy.  

As more stringent emissions reporting requirements are being driven by government and investors, more companies will need their suppliers, many of which are SMBs, to be ready to report their own emissions. The report suggests that governments and policymakers must acknowledge the specific challenges and reporting burdens faced by SMBs to deliver accurate carbon reporting and accounting, such as lack of expertise and dedicated resources, and offer credible and immediate support in mitigating these issues. In turn, larger organisations must work more closely with SMBs in their supply chains to make the task of measuring, disclosing and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions as straightforward as possible.

Finally, the Think Small First report calls on the accountancy profession to galvanise and support SMBs, helping them to remove barriers and transparently navigate an increasingly complex landscape as part of global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It suggests four key integrated principles to help policymakers and large companies take on this mission:

1.     Standardise. Large companies should work together within sectors and industries to ensure SMBs are being asked for information on a standardised basis. Government has a role in underpinning this consistency, including coordinating the time when this information should be delivered.

2.     Simplify. Much of the guidance for climate and ESG disclosure is designed for large companies. Government should develop simpler guidance. In addition, large companies trying to gather data, such as their Scope 3 emissions, should work together on simplifying and aligning the process by focusing requests on the most material issues, for example with consistent questions that do not exceed two pages.

3.     Automate. Governments and business need to support the development of automated tools to make information gathering and reporting as straightforward as possible. Large companies can develop the technology and offer training in those tools to SMBs where appropriate. Governments should create an enabling policy framework and invest in digital infrastructure so that SMBs can innovate and share data more effectively.

4.     Enable. Government policy and action by large corporates must recognise the challenges for SMBs and enable them to overcome them. Investing in supply chain emissions reduction should be an ESG priority for companies, while government needs to provide an enabling policy framework by ‘Thinking Small First’ when drafting climate policy, providing the right incentives that are accessible and actionable for SMBs.

To view/download/access the Think Small First report please visit: https://www.accaglobal.com/gb/en/technical-activities/technical-resources-search/2021/november/think-small-first-enabling-effective-climate-action-smb.html

Steve Hare, CEO, Sage Group, commented, “Small and medium businesses have a powerful role to play as we collectively shift towards a low carbon economy, but the customers we speak to every day are deterred by the complexity they face when it comes to carbon reporting and accounting. Accountants are already playing their part in making sure SMBs can see how sustainability can be practical as well as purposeful and are armed and ready to navigate this challenging landscape. But we urgently need policymakers and large companies to provide a simplified framework and guidance.  It’s in everyone’s interests to get this right for the benefit of the planet’s future.”

Helen Brand, Chief Executive of ACCA, added: “As well as representing about 90% of businesses globally, SMBs also offer more than 50% of employment worldwide. As such, they have a huge role to play alongside the professional accountants who advise them in tackling climate action. They need to know what to report, and for standards to be proportionate and focused on information that improves business management. As with big business, we need to avoid disclosure overload, so that users of reports can easily access the information they need.” 

Maria Fernanda Garza, ICC First Vice Chair, said, “We’ve seen a proliferation of initiatives aimed at getting small businesses to Net Zero over the past few years, but where these initiatives fail is their inability to resonate with their audience. Coupling the principles outlined in the report with financial incentives and enabling regulatory reforms will ensure that small businesses view climate action as a business opportunity – rather than another burden during trying economic times.”

Sage’s innovative approach to tackling the climate crisis and support SMBs to do the same is outlined in its Sustainability and Society strategy ‘Knocking Down Barriers’.

Sage Intacct is used by SMBs to monitor and manage their energy consumption, while the Sage Sustainability Hub provides owners of small businesses with expertise and actionable advice on how to reduce the carbon impact of their operations and play a key part in creating a more sustainable future.

Sage has committed to becoming Net Zero by 2040 across scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions with an interim goal to cut emissions by 50% by 2030.

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About Sage

Sage is the global market leader for technology that provides small and medium businesses with the visibility, flexibility and efficiency to manage finances, operations and people. With our partners, Sage is trusted by millions of customers worldwide to deliver the best cloud technology and support. Our years of experience mean that our colleagues and partners understand how to serve our customers and communities through the good, and more challenging times. We are here to help, with practical advice, solutions, expertise and insight.

For any further information about the Sage Group please contact Finsbury Glover Hering: + 44 (0) 207 251 3801 or sage_lon@finsbury.com

About ACCA: ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global professional body for professional accountants.

We’re a thriving global community of 233,000 members and 536,000 future members based in 178 countries and regions, who work across a wide range of sectors and industries. We uphold the highest professional and ethical values.

We offer everyone everywhere the opportunity to experience a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. Our qualifications and learning opportunities develop strategic business leaders, forward-thinking professionals with the financial, business and digital expertise essential for the creation of sustainable organisations and flourishing societies.

Since 1904, being a force for public good has been embedded in our purpose. In December 2020, we made commitments to the UN Sustainable Development Goals which we are measuring and will report on in our annual integrated report.

We believe that accountancy is a cornerstone profession of society and is vital helping economies, organisations and individuals to grow and prosper. It does this by creating robust trusted financial and business management, combating corruption, ensuring organisations are managed ethically, driving sustainability, and providing rewarding career opportunities.

And through our cutting-edge research, we lead the profession by answering today’s questions and preparing for the future. We’re a not-for-profit organisation. Find out more at accaglobal.com

For further info about ACCA, please contact: helen.thompson@accaglobal.com M: +44 (0)7725 498 654

"As well as representing about 90% of businesses globally, SMBs also offer more than 50% of employment worldwide. As such, they have a huge role to play alongside the professional accountants who advise them in tackling climate action. They need to know what to report, and for standards to be proportionate and focused on information that improves business management. As with big business, we need to avoid disclosure overload, so that users of reports can easily access the information they need."

Helen Brand OBE, chief executive - ACCA