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Accountants must redouble net zero efforts, A4S warns

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 29 Nov 2023

Accounting for Sustainability says directors are still in the early stages of having the right information, capabilities and tools to ensure sustainability targets become action.

Accountants and finance professionals should redouble their efforts to transition to net zero, Accounting for Sustainability (A4S) – the body set up by King Charles in 2004 – is warning.

Jessica Fries, Executive Chair of A4S, says directors are still in the early stages of having the right information, capabilities and tools at their fingertips to ensure sustainability targets become action. Fries is calling on international business, finance and accountants to leverage “the power of finance and accounting to drive sustainable decisions for the benefit of all” in the run-up to COP28.

The A4S Summit, taking place in London this week, brings together chairs, CEOs, CFOs and other finance leaders from some of the world’s biggest businesses, insurers, pension funds, accounting bodies and investor organisations. 

“We are already experiencing the devastating impact of a heating planet, with 2023 far exceeding previous temperature records. There is a duty – and urgency – for all of us to act, redoubling our efforts and leveraging the power of finance and accounting to drive sustainable decisions for the benefit of all,” Fries says. 

The gathering of international finance leaders and regulators will carry out a stocktake of the actions that the finance and accounting community is taking to accelerate progress towards a net zero economy. 

Speakers at the A4S Summit include Bank of America Chair and CEO Brian Moynihan; Professor Robert Kaplan, Senior Fellow and Marvin Bower Professor of Leadership Development, Emeritus, Harvard Business School; Caterpillar Inc CFO Andrew Bonfield; Tata Steel Group Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Koushik Chatterjee; and Laura Palmeiro, Head of Sustainable Finance at Danone.

The summit will also explore ways to increase investment to the levels needed to deliver the transition in a way that will also benefit people, communities and nature.

“Encouragingly, progress is being made – according to the International Energy Agency, clean energy investment is on course to rise to $1.7trn in 2023, with solar energy set to eclipse oil production for the first time, but it’s still not enough,” Fries says. 

Although the climate crisis is firmly on board agendas, “directors are still in the foothills in terms of having the right information, capabilities and tools at their fingertips” to ensure net zero targets become action. Fries also warns about the barriers to progress “without a joined-up approach across the whole economy”. 

The Summit will also look to accelerate flows of finance to deliver the transition. It will examine the key barriers hindering progress, including the preparation of transition plans across private and public sectors, as well as how to close data and capability gaps, and put people and nature at the heart of the transition. 

“Considering the alarming reports from the UN and scientists around the world in the build-up to COP28, this year’s Summit is a critical opportunity for the finance and accounting community to redouble efforts and set out how they will play a leadership role to overcome barriers,” Fries says. 

Findings and recommendations from the Summit will inform A4S’s contribution to COP28 in Dubai where the organisation will host several roundtables and workshops as it continues its mission of “making sustainable business, business as usual”.

A4S was established by HM King Charles III in 2004, when he was The Prince of Wales, to turn sustainable business into business as usual, and is part of the King Charles III Charitable Fund Group of Charities.  

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