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ICAEW among organisations urging action on SDGs

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 18 Sep 2023

Time is running out. Halfway to the 2030 deadline to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, the UN reports just 12% progress and an open letter urges the UK Prime Minister to take action.

ICAEW is one of the 11 signatories on an open letter from the finance and accounting profession to the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, calling on the UK government to “show global leadership and take decisive action to put us back on track”.

This follows the release of a recent UN Sustainable Development Goals Progress Report that the world is on track to meet only 12% of the UN SDGs. Some progress has been made on 50% of the goals but they are still way off target, while 30% have stalled or made negative progress.

The UK is on course to meet just 17% of targets. “A fundamental shift is needed – in commitment, solidarity, financing and action – to put the world on a better path,” the report states.

The open letter, signed by the Chief Executives of ICAEW, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland, among others, pushes for greater leadership around issues covered by the SDGs as we approach COP28.

“As accounting and finance professionals working across all areas of the economy, we know first-hand the costs of inaction to the businesses and organisations we lead and advise,” says the statement. “Acting now is an investment that will not only improve the lives of millions of people but safeguard our future economic prosperity and business resilience.”

The letter stresses the importance of sticking to domestic net zero commitments, with a clear policy framework to help businesses accelerate innovation and investment.

The UK government must also keep its commitments to become nature-positive by 2030, aligning the activities of UK institutions and the finance system with these targets. The letter calls for the transition to be socially just, highlighting the potential for net-zero initiatives that restore nature and improve the lives of people and communities.

“We urge you and your government to show global leadership and take decisive action to put us back on track to meet our commitments and create a more sustainable future for all.

We stand ready and willing to use our collective skills and knowledge in organisational governance, strategy, risk management and performance to support the British and other governments in implementing the changes needed to drive progress.”

ICAEW is emphasising the role that Chartered Accountants have to play in realising this goal. By integrating sustainability into financial decisions, analysing risks, identifying opportunities, and ensuring transparent reporting, they can actively contribute to bridging the gaps identified.

“The accountancy and finance sector has the power to leverage its influence to reshape business practices, catalysing positive change aligned with the SDGs,” says Richard Spencer, ICAEW’s Head of Sustainability.

“Business as usual is no longer an option. We must create an economic environment that ensures businesses can transform how they operate to include their impact on people and the planet. This must be done through adequate fiscal policy, providing the right incentives and support for businesses, particularly SMEs, to transition to a net-zero, nature-positive future.

“This should include considerations for the current and future skills of the workforce. We need to keep fairness and justice at the heart of the transition on the international stage and hold developed nations to account on their financial commitments to developing nations.”

Latest Insights on UN SDGs

Open letter to the UK Government

On 18 September 2023 the world’s leading accountancy and finance bodies published a letter to the UK government urging transformative action to achieve the global SDGs and secure our collective future.

The UK houses of parliament

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