COP26 may have focused on big business, but small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) make up a large part of the UK economy. This 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 make up 90% of the global economy as well, improvements in their sustainability practices are vital to addressing worldwide 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 United Nation’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
Helen Brand, ACCA’s chief executive, said, ‘We are really pleased to launch this playbook during such a critical time in the climate change agenda. COP26 was a couple of weeks ago and what is clear is business as usual is no longer an option. We face a climate emergency. Sustainability is an urgent, global project.
‘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.’
Claire Bennison, ACCA’s head of UK, said, ‘In the UK, SMEs make up a large part of the economy – so professional accountants should be the drivers of change to lead businesses in their transition to becoming more sustainable. This playbook is essential in supporting SMEs with their transformations and reporting on these achievements.’
James Lizars of Thrive Accountants, a tech firm-focused accountancy business has a different approach to sustainability and said, ‘The most important thing small and medium-sized practices can do, is take the first step. Act now, measure later, and recommend that clients do the same. You often find once you do something, you’re inclined to do something else and by the time you’ve figured out how best to measure this you’ve already made improvements that you can report on.’