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ICAEW members around the world see accelerating net zero action

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 15 Oct 2021

As ICAEW’s Climate Summit gets underway, engagement with international members points to increasing measures by businesses around the world to tackle carbon emissions, with a focus on the opportunities as well as the risks associated with the transition to net zero.

Feedback from ICAEW international members provides new insights on how the organisations they work in are taking steps to address climate change, despite different starting points in different parts of the world. The results of an online survey conducted in late September also highlight the need for appropriate public policy frameworks, alongside changing consumer behaviours, to further drive business change.

With the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) starting in a fortnight, the findings from ICAEW’s outreach to international members suggests that organisations across the globe are stepping up to the challenge, with a majority now taking action to move towards net zero carbon emissions. Many of the organisations they work for also see business opportunities associated with moving towards net zero – and for just under a third, these are viewed as being significant. Over a third of organisations have already set internal targets for climate-related opportunities.

For most the primary focus is on reducing carbon emissions while acting to mitigate the impact of climate change on the business. An important minority of organisations have moved ahead with steps to allocate responsibility for dealing with climate change to senior management and to embed climate change activities into strategic planning. A third of ICAEW international members work in organisations where climate change is now integrated into risk management.

Those that are not yet taking any measures are often not doing so because of limited internal and external pressure for change, particularly where there are limited demands from public authorities, consumers or supply chains for action.

Reporting on climate change risks is another area of work in progress. Here, limited application of sustainability related frameworks, including the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), likely reflects the focus of such reporting on large financial institutions and listed companies. Our experience in the UK suggests that this will change as the demand for disclosures intensifies across the broader economy, whether due to regulatory requirements or from information demands arising in supply chains as well as requests by financial institutions and consumers.

Reflecting on the findings, Mark Billington, ICAEW Managing Director, International, observed that: “organisations around the world are at different points in the journey to address climate change. This is not necessarily a straight path: the more organisations do, the more they may realise the amount of change that is needed – including when it comes to reporting”. He further added: “it is no surprise, therefore, that many international members have told us that they want more support to help them and their organisations on this journey. Their feedback provides us with valuable input as we further develop our resources to ensure all our members are professionally ready to address the climate change challenge, wherever they are located.”

For Richard Spencer, ICAEW Director of Sustainability, the responses also point to the key role that public authorities need to play to fast-track the transition to net zero. “The survey”, he noted “again underlines the critical importance of closing the gap between ambition and action. COP26 needs to get all countries over the line and ensure that binding net zero plans are put forward by those yet to do so and that these are supported by credible pathways supported by well-targeted policies and regulations that bite. This will help accelerate necessary investments in adaptation and mitigation efforts by both private and public sector, while enabling businesses to also seize the opportunities associated with a more sustainable way of doing business.”

Read the key findings of the ICAEW survey of international members on climate change

ICAEW’s Climate Summit is a five-day virtual summit of events, videos, podcasts and articles to help chartered accountants act on climate. This is the first such summit bringing ICAEW members from across the profession together on the issue of climate change. To register or for more information click here.

Members who want to explore more climate change content can be part of the Sustainability and Climate Change Community and visit ICAEW’s COP26 Hub: acting together on climate.

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