“Being an accounting business for good,

is good for business.”

“The evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions are choking our planet and placing billions of people in danger.” These are the words of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in response to the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. A report, Guterres says, that is nothing less than a code red for humanity. But how can accountants save the world?

There are various terms associated with the role of accountants in sustainability: sustainability disclosures, carbon reporting, triple bottom line. But even now, under ‘code-red’, real action doesn’t feature in our job description.

Recently, I took part in a panel discussion for ACCA as part of their Accounting For The Future conference. The conversation meandered around the opportunity of a ‘sustainable’ business gaining a competitive edge. It examined the potential of an additional revenue stream for accountants advising and reporting on sustainability – an extra GoProposal line item perhaps. But this kind of transformation feels desperately slow.

Frankly, we don’t have any more time to waste. We have the influence to make a real difference, and fast. But how?

I believe the answer lies within a bit of climate jargon: Scope 3 Emissions. Supply Chain and other indirect emissions are generally the largest source of GHG emissions for any business.

Many of us are already doing our small part to reduce emissions: changing to a renewable tariff, buying less stuff, choosing refurbished instead of new.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle…

But there’s a motivation gap – something preventing the vast majority from transforming these small acts of good to scalable, world-saving action.

If the long term impacts of climate change, the inherent risk they present to the Financial Sustainability of a business, or the idea that consumer spending will shift greenwards is not sufficient motivation, then what could possibly be enough to motivate rapid action taken en-masse?

Instead of looking at the supply chain beneath,

look at the supply chain above.

Most likely, your clients are a link in a much larger supply chain. With over 50% of the FTSE 100 having made Net-Zero pledges, chances are that someone further up that chain has already pledged. A great many B2B businesses have had Net-Zero pledges made on their behalf – they’re just not aware of it yet.

In the run-up to COP26, Tesco announced their strengthened Net-Zero pledge and how their supply chain (90% of emissions) will ‘support’ this. Want to supply Tesco? Want to service someone who supplies Tesco? You see how that plays, right? An extra box on their procurement form and it’s done(ish).

Right now we, their trusted accountants and bookkeepers, could be advising our clients that climate action is in the Opportunity box of their SWOT, while inaction is a Threat.

We can impress upon our clients the financial imperative of more rapid action throughout their business and their teams (who happen to also be consumers) and urge them to make climate action just a routine part of how business is done day to day.

Might accountants save the world?

With 16m people employed by SMEs in the UK alone, by our clients, perhaps we will. And it starts with that first conversation.

Of course, to those in the know, Climate Action is just one of the 17 UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs) It’s the one that we focus on most at Thrive, but we also ask our clients in their proposal meetings which of the SDGs they’d like us to support on their behalf.

It’s an opportunity to shine a light on the Global Goals if the client hasn’t heard of them before. It’s also an opportunity to listen to what is truly important to them beyond profit.

Behind the scenes the giving is largely automated with Zapier to our Ecologi and B1G1 accounts. We’ve even got the SDG icons showing in an Impact section of the AppsMap, something that’s now available to all GoProposal users.

“Accountants can save the world.”

 – Peter Bakker, President and CEO of WBCSD

James Lizars is CEO of Thrive Accountants, members of Million Tree Pledge. You can catch more of James’s wise words and join the conversation over on LinkedIn, where he explains how ‘being a business for good is good for business.’

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