COP26 may have focused on big business, but 90 per cent are small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which is why ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and CA ANZ (Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand) are equipping accountants with a new playbook to help them and their SME clients achieve their sustainability goals.
How SMEs can create a more sustainable world details the benefits that sustainable actions have for both business success and the environment. The playbook sets out practical steps for embedding sustainable practices within SMEs, case studies from across the world, and links to a variety of tools and resources.
Given SMEs represent the majority of businesses in the global economy, improvements in their sustainability practices are vital to addressing our global environmental and social challenges.
The playbook contains guidance from over 30 businesses, both from SMEs, SMPs (small- and medium-sized practices) and bigger businesses who work close with them including The Balcony Garden, Sage, Taylors Wines, Intuit, Xero, WE Accounting, as well as professional accountants and business leaders from around the world.
The playbook outlines how the following can make a difference.
Reshaping business models and reimagining the future: Explaining what sustainable development is, setting out the business case for sustainability, and illustrating the role of the profession.
Acting with urgency on climate change in particular: Guidance on how to have the conversation about climate change, illustrating the need for urgent action, and explaining what is happening globally.
Considering sustainability in business operations and every decision made: Demonstrating different ways action can be taken to address challenges such as reducing emission levels (including how to set targets and measure emissions), waste, and inequality.
Adopting sustainability goals: Explaining science-based targets, the Paris Agreement, the UN's SDGs, and create ambitious strategies for sustainable future growth.
Bringing integrity to the process: How to ensure integrity in the transformation to sustainability by taking a principles-based approach.
Aleksandra Zaronina-Kirillova, ACCA head of SME, professional insights, said, "We face a climate emergency. Sustainability is an urgent, global project. The collective impact of billions of actions at a local and organisational scale will make a huge difference."
Karen McWilliams FCA, CA ANZ business reform leader, said, "COP 26... heightened the world’s focus not just on addressing climate change but broader environmental issues including water and nature. In particular, there was significant focus on the role of non-state actors, such as business in tackling these challenges, particularly the establishment of the International Sustainability Standards Board was a crucial step towards much needed harmonisation of sustainability reporting standards and it’s a sign that global developments are starting to pick up pace.
"This playbook has been designed to help SMEs and SMPs navigate what this means for them. It gives them the resources and tools that they need to take action. Addressing sustainability challenges requires everyone, and this playbook has been designed to support that collective action."
Helen Brand, ACCA’s chief executive, said, "Governments, having adopted ambitious sustainable development goals for the end of this decade, are ramping up regulation to encourage and enforce ‘green action’. Many of these businesses are on the edge of survival and these measures should not be a burden on SMEs already impacted by the pandemic. Therefore, it’s very important to align recovery packages with sustainability incentives.
"This playbook is essential in supporting SMEs with their sustainable transformations and reporting on these achievements."
Ainslie van Onselen, CA ANZ chief executive officer, said: "SMEs and SMPs represent the majority of the economy – particularly in New Zealand and Australia – and together, they can have a significant influence on the business world’s approach to sustainable development. Getting started can be a challenge so this playbook is designed to equip both SMEs and SMPs as they navigate what sustainable development means for them.
"As the playbook sets out, we encourage our members and all accountants to adopt a six-point plan to
1) improve their sustainability understanding,
2) gather resources and start having a conversation with others,
3) consider what sustainable development means for every decision they make,
4) measure non-financial performance and encourage clients to do so,
5) engage with other sustainability professionals and
6) share their insights and experiences widely and often. Sustainable practices are crucial for future resilience, and businesses embedding them are finding more opportunities for overall success and profitability."
* Submitted by the ACCA