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Accountants 'can drive environmental accountability'

21/08/13

The current drive towards environmental accountability from global businesses has led to a number of changes in corporate reporting, with the UK recently introducing a measure that makes revealing carbon emissions a compulsory part of each annual release from companies.

While this means that accountants have had to learn some new skills and recalibrate their corporate role to some extent, it also gives them the opportunity to play a key role in the vanguard of environmental change in the business world.

According to a new report from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), the debate over climate change has been mirrored by a great deal of discussion about how corporate disclosure and reporting should change to reflect new demands for information.

The organisation convened a panel of industry experts to ask how they felt these shifts in corporate culture would affect the accountancy profession over the coming years and highlight how industry experts can take advantage of the changes to stamp their authority on organisations.

In general, those involved felt that current standards of corporate environmental reporting are somewhat superficial, with large-scale alterations in business attitudes needed before they can have the desired effect on reducing carbon emissions and placing green practices at the core of business policy.

Karen Boyd, accountancy programme leader at Northumbria University, said: "Sustainability
reports are used as an opportunity for companies to talk about their latest environmentally-friendly building but the narrative rarely comes with any quantifiable evidence."

However, the majority of panel members felt that further regulatory frameworks would not help improve the situation because of the subjective nature of sustainability measures. Instead, businesses should attempt to embed green practices into their model because of their perceived cost-effectiveness, an area where accountants can be helpful.

A new generation of workers could be key to this shift - Generation Y employees are known to be passionate about environmental issues and are more likely to drive change of this kind than their older counterparts, it was suggested.

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