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Breaking the mould: adapting accounting skills to address climate change challenges

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 01 Dec 2020

Illustration of a person on a bicycle with graphs in the background

Jo Muncaster combines her accountancy skills with her passion for a greener world. Alison Coleman talks to her about her work promoting decarbonisation.

Three years ago, Jo Muncaster decided to move more than 8,000 miles, relocating from the UK to take a job as Financial Controller at the Falkland Islands Tourist Board, and at the Falkland Islands Development Corporation. In 2019 she became Capital Project Accountant for AIM-listed international services group FIH plc.

“We spent three years living in an idyllic, unspoiled place. The contrast with the UK in terms of the human impact on the environment, carbon emissions, traffic congestion and plastic waste was black and white,” Jo says.

She became passionate about addressing the challenges of climate change, and decided to return to the UK with an idea intended to expand her horizons. She combined her ACA skills with her project management experience and took on the role of Project Finance Lead at City Science, a technology company focused entirely on decarbonisation.

“This was an industry I could identify with and get excited about. But I was also thinking about my future. I’d envisaged within the next 10 years moving beyond Financial Controller to become more involved in the operational side of things. This job allows me to do that.”

Alongside her financial appraisal work, Muncaster is involved in all aspects of the business. This ranges from developing software for transport-related modelling for local authorities to pushing forward the strategy for developing the company’s energy department. “That’s where your ACA training comes in. You have to focus on risk management, governance and ensuring that what we’re doing aligns with how we want the company to progress.” 

After the UK’s initial country-wide lockdown, funding for active travel – encouraging more walking and cycling – is an area that City Science is working on. It includes providing support to local authorities to ensure they are not only making the right decisions but providing evidence of it.

“Part of our work is transport modelling software that shows the impact of these decisions,” says Muncaster. “So, when local authorities decide to change roads to bicycles-only there can sometimes be a backlash from communities affected by the fact that more cars are now driving down their road. We can present the evidence to show that the impact of these changes is outweighed by the benefits around things like air quality.”

Muncaster advocates a move to include a roadmap to net zero in financial reporting for every company, but accepts that is unlikely to happen without legislation, and that for some companies, it would be tough to implement.

“Financially, it would be difficult, but it raises questions about the long-term sustainability of some of these businesses,” she says. “They need to think about whether they open their eyes and make the leap, or whether they are pushed. I enjoy being part of a company that promotes the message that we need to decarbonise. It might not be a traditional financial career route, but I see it as a smart alternative.”