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Wednesday, 17 December 2014 11:18

Prince Charles urges conversion of every accountant to nature

Prince Charles has challenged the financial sector  to go and convince their finance colleagues to account for sustainabilty, so that in five years every accountant in the world takes stock of nature.

prince charles speechHis call was made on the tenth anniversary of his Accounting for Sustainability (A4S) Project where at a special event he asked over 200 senior leaders from the finance and accountancy community to find their voice, and persuade their peers of the imperative to take action on sustainability while there is still time.

Speaking at the A4S Summit Prince Charles said: "Go out and seek to convince your peers. In this regard, the team of accountants at A4S has highlighted some rather interesting numbers to me....

"I understand – and I assume a team of accountants must be right! – that if every one of you here in the room today manages to convince just five others to start accounting for sustainability, and then each one of them engages another five each year, in five years' time we could reach all of the three million accountants in the world!

"However, I hate to tell you that for obvious reasons five years is too long – so each of you needs to rush out and convince ten! And then accountants really will be helping to save the world!"

The Prince's Accounting for Sustainability Project was set up by HRH The Prince of Wales ten years ago to drive action by the finance and accounting community to move towards resilient business models and a sustainable economy.

During that time it has formed a Chief Financial Officers Leadership Network, the Accounting Bodies Network, which reaches 2.5 million accountants worldwide, and established the International Integrated Reporting Council which aims to transform corporate reporting.

To coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Prince of Wales Accounting for Sustainability Project, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) published research from the next generation of accountants on their attitudes. It revealed that deterioration of natural resources, a global population explosion and financial market instability will be the main impacts, they feel, on the global business environment in the next 10 years.

prince charles graphicACCA surveyed more than 4,500 ACCA students who were asked their opinions, as finance professionals of the future, about how global macro sustainability trends will impact businesses and the role of accountants in countering these pressures and challenges.

A massive 81% said the main impact on business by 2024 would be a decline in natural resources; 70% said an increasing population would be impactful, with this seen as more prominent amongst respondents in Africa, South Asia and Western Europe (73%, 72% and 70% respectively).

Instability in the financial markets was a major concern for 67% of respondents, with more prominence placed on this in the Caribbean and Africa at 80% and 72% respectively.

Ewan Willars, director of policy at ACCA, said: "The sustainability agenda has accelerated in the last decade, and we congratulate His Royal Highness on the success of A4S and look forward to more decades working together to raise the issue of sustainability.

prince charles Jessica copy"But there is clearly more to be done. It worries me greatly that only a small majority, of 35%, see the world in ten years as being a better place to live. However it is positive that many more believe that sustainability issues will become more central to their area of work.

"The ACCA finance professionals of the future see the next 10 years as being one of change – they know that as finance professionals they will have to do more to provide businesses with more decision-making insight than now – such as forecasting and reporting on what might happen in the future, rather than recording what has happened.

"But they are attuned to this need and that bodes well for the future – one respondent said 'It is only natural that the accountant should be most qualified to quantify the costs of environmental negligence and sustainability, and report these to other officers."

Ewan Willars concludes: "True sustainability is where resources are maintained and where capital - whether natural, economic, social or human - is sustained. Good, effective sustainability policies are those which see business as being deeply connected with communities and the natural world, not separate from it. Accountants cannot afford to be isolated from this issue, and our research shows that they are willing and ready to be engaged, and to be part of a sustainable future."

Jessica Fries, Executive Chairman of A4S speaking at the A4S Summit, said: "Over the ten years since our launch we have worked to dispel the idea that there has to be a choice between making money on one hand and 'doing the right thing' on the other. Making business decisions which are designed to build resilient business models will inevitably lead to a more sustainable economy. However time is not on our side. We have achieved a lot in ten years but there is still a great deal of work to do."

Accounting for Sustainability (A4S) Project
ACCA report: - the next ten years