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Chartered accountants play a key role in turning sustainability rhetoric into action

5 February 2021: The COVID-19 pandemic has moved the issue of business sustainability to the role finance professionals should play in leading a green and fair recovery and ensuring sustainable decision-making becomes business as usual.

A series of virtual events hosted by ICAEW, Accounting for Sustainability (A4S) and Deloitte as part of the Finance for the Future Awards programme has highlighted the pivotal role finance can play in driving the sustainability agenda. 

The three online events showcased leaders in sustainability within finance and previous winners as part of the organisations’ ongoing commitment to help business tackle environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.

The online events, which are available to watch on-demand, offer practical examples to help finance professionals turn the sustainability rhetoric into practical action. The objective is to inspire, influence and inform so that the focus on sustainability becomes embedded in business.

Driving Change:

Through the biggest crisis of the 21st century, the global finance community has continued to demonstrate innovation and drive for change. In this virtual event, panellists discuss the role that the academic and educational communities play in transforming finance to a sustainable future. At the heart of the discussion is Driving Change in the Finance Community category of the awards, and the important role continuing innovation plays in bringing about change. Panellists debate the current state of sustainable finance in education, the ways academic and educational communities play in the transformative role in building sustainable economies and the scale of the ‘skills shortage’ within the finance profession. The speakers were: Richard Barker, Professor of Accounting, Saïd Business School, Dr Mirabelle Muûls, Imperial College London and Veronica Poole, Global IFRS Leader, Deloitte.

Authentic integrated thinking:

The COVID-19 and climate change crises have highlighted the importance of integrated thinking to the resilience and viability of organisations. This masterclass explores integrated thinking and what it means in practice including steps to embed it within an organisation. It also analyses the role integrated thinking plays in organisational resilience to support longer-term risks like climate change, and short term unexpected shocks like COVID-19. Panellists Tesco and Salesforce, both previous winners in integrated thinking categories discussed how integrated thinking is embedded into the DNA of their organisation. The speakers were: Alan Stewart, Chief Financial Officer, Tesco and Joe Allanson, Executive Vice President, Chief Accountant and Controller, Salesforce.

Moving financial markets: how can we accelerate financial markets to drive a green and fair economy?

In this session, the panellists explore how financial institutions, products and services can move financial markets towards a more sustainable economy. The debate centres around the vision for the finance sector and asks how far we are from achieving it. It looks at behavioural changes and the role of the regulator in driving this change. In addition, panellists respond to the challenges posed by investors driving the sustainability agenda to make ‘green’ the new normal for pensions and asks how green products can be scaled up or developed to accelerate change and drive a green and fair economy. The speakers were: Sarah Breeden, Executive Director, Bank of England, Alison Vipond, Sustainability Policy and Innovation Lead, Ecology Building Society, Michael Marshall, Head of Sustainable Ownership, Railpen and Pavan Sukhdev, President, WWF International

The hope is that the examples showcased during the events will inspire organisations to tell their own stories about how their finance communities are driving sustainable business practices by entering the Finance for the Future Awards 2021. You can read a case study about their winning entries here.

If you missed any of the virtual events in December, which offered practical examples to help finance professionals turn sustainability vision into practical action they are now available to download.

For full details of the Finance for the Future Awards 2021 including in-depth information about the five categories, and how to enter, go to https://www.financeforthefuture.org/entering.

Join the new ICAEW Sustainability & Climate Change Community for free, providing inspiration, insights and collective ambition for professionals delivering on sustainability and acting on climate change.