Under the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic many businesses have delayed or cancelled strategies to improve their environmental sustainability. CPA Ireland, one of the country’s leading accountancy bodies, is now urging the accounting profession to demonstrate leadership in encouraging businesses of all sizes to plan for a greener future.
President of CPA Ireland, John Devaney, speaking at the CPA Ireland virtual event Sustainability - Future Business Leaders, revealed findings of a forthcoming CPA study by economist Jim Power. “Over a third of CPAs (37%) said that COVID-19 has been directly responsible for delaying the implementation of environmental sustainability strategies for their clients. This is understandable as many businesses have been focusing on keeping the lights on rather than what energy is used to power them. However, in 2021 as we hope for some form of normality, it is essential that businesses refocus on their sustainability.
“Last month the Government published the ambitious Climate Action Bill which aims to see Ireland reach net-zero emissions by 2050. This has signalled that increased Carbon Taxes and increasing regulations are inevitable, so it will be incumbent on all businesses to chart their own course towards carbon neutrality, ideally long before 2050.”
Speaking at the event Mark Kramer a co-founder of FSG, a mission-driven consulting firm, and a Senior Fellow, CSR Initiative, Harvard Kennedy School of Government said “Despite all the confusion and debate about whether broad sustainability efforts benefit shareholders, there is clear evidence that targeted and strategic sustainability efforts, focused on issues that are material to the business, create shared value and generate superior total shareholder returns.’
In response, Devaney, highlighted the opportunity this presents to the accountancy profession. “our recent research found that 31% of CPAs have been assisting clients to develop an environmental sustainability plan. In the years ahead this will become not just a moral imperative but a legal requirement for the wider business community. There is an opportunity for the accountancy profession to show leadership by including sustainability reporting as a core service and not wait for legislation.”
To help the profession adapt to this new role, sustainability reporting was introduced as a core element to CPA Ireland’s new education syllabus, Ready to Face the Future of Accounting launched earlier this year.