Photo on the cover of the report of a crowd of people with brightly coloured umbrellas crossing the streets in the rain.

In their support for the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector (that represents about 90% of businesses and more than 50% of employment worldwide according to the World Bank) they are helping this vital part of the economy operate more effectively, powering economic growth, employment and individual prosperity. 

They also have an important role in supporting individuals and organisations in their local communities: promoting financial literacy and social cohesion, reaching out to schools and colleges, supporting charities and NGOs, and offering employment and training to underrepresented groups. Their role often remains forgotten or untold.

Responsible SMP pacesetters is based on the findings of more than 40 interviews conducted with SMP leaders from around the world and is aimed to shine a light on the broader social role of the small practices.

This report is designed not merely to recognise this contribution, but to inspire and support the leaders of SMPs to reflect on and enhance their own social responsibility programmes. It also shows how the wider engagement that social responsibility entails can be the catalyst that allows both accountants and their clients in various field to reach their true potential.

Supporting the charity and NGO sector

Like many other organisations, SMPs make donations, fund-raise and volunteer for charities. But their biggest contributions are as accountants and business advisers: not just producing accounts pro bono, but also serving on boards and promoting good governance, financial accountability and best practice. This work also serves as a powerful development tool for accountancy leaders and their staff.

Financial inclusion and financial literacy

SMPs play a valuable role in fostering financial literacy among both individuals and organisations in their communities, promoting both entrepreneurship and personal responsibility. The adoption of digital technologies, in particular, is leading to a new era of engagement between SMP accountants and their clients, and enhanced financial competence among small business owners.

Social inclusion

One way that SMP accountants have helped make their practices more inclusive is by using digital technology to promote flexible working practices and better work–life balance. Remote working and flexible hours were well established in SMP accountancy even before the COVID-19 crisis and make it possible for people to combine a career in accountancy with family life, or to overcome mobility issues. 

Sustainability and ethics

As ‘sustainability trailblazers’, SMP accountants play a leading role in transforming the SME universe into one of robust businesses by behaving ethically and responsibly. As trusted advisers they can guide small businesses through the maze of emerging reporting frameworks, carbon accounting, and waste reduction schemes and help them become both economically and environmentally sustainable.