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How to improve sustainability in the workplace

Author: ICAEW

Published: 06 Sep 2021

How to promote sustainability in the workplace with ICAEW accredited accountants. Learn more about how your business can benefit from sustainable change now

There is no doubt that sustainability is one of the most important areas of focus for business as we move deeper into the 2020s. The need for sustainable practice stretches across all sectors with industry leaders constantly on the lookout for how sustainability can be ensured in the short, medium and long term. The UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs) are designed to be achieved by 2030, therefore they are a key focus in the coming years.

Accounting is no different. The need for sustainable accounting methods have been at the forefront of development over the last ten years and as we move forward their importance will only increase. As this significance increases, the way in which accountancy continues to be sustainable is set to change. Where once simply identifying and reporting on operations resulting in carbon emission was deemed acceptable, this has shifted to a mindset where valuation is far more important than identification. Understanding why emissions must be cut, if cutting them is feasible and what will happen if they are not, is crucial to understanding the value of sustainability within the industry.

Although this also applies to the wider workplace, accounting is uniquely positioned to spearhead the fight for sustainability. The capacity to track company activities in detail allows accountants to identify areas ripe for change and to build realistic plans to achieve it.

How you can promote sustainability in your workplace

There are some basic ways in which employers can start promoting sustainability pretty much immediately. Areas such as sourcing ethical suppliers, reducing energy used whilst working, increasing recycling levels and going paperless are all excellent ways to boost sustainability in the short term.

But while these are worthwhile activities that are sure to have a bearing on overall sustainability, there is a limit to how effective they can be if unsustainable practices are ingrained elsewhere, often at an organisational level.

In order to tackle larger issues and to inform strategy in the medium to long term, educating employees and ensuring any new staff are aligned with your sustainability goals is essential.

Businesses face plenty of challenges in the modern world with new technology and political uncertainty having to be taken into consideration alongside balancing economic growth and societal needs. This is why ensuring sustainability is at the heart of key business areas, such as accountancy, is so important. There are precious few roles that allow sustainable practices to be implemented, monitored and adjusted in real-time. This ability to measure and manage what matters most in a business can lead directly to sustainable value.

Ensuring sustainability through ICAEW

Developing accountants that possess the skills to drive ethical and sustainable practices are core to what we do at ICAEW. Accountants are uniquely placed to do more than just save money, increasingly saving the planet has become a much larger part of the job. The sustainable development goals are one of our four strategic themes, and are included within the ACA syllabus as part of the training for ICAEW accountants.

Whether it’s helping to produce more economically viable green energy or tackling the impact of practices like fast fashion on the environment, the analysis of financial data is a powerful tool that can be harnessed to bring about tangible change.

When training future accountants, we ensure that they are in tune with these new responsibilities and fully understand the context in which accountancy and sustainability work together. Understanding both how they are impacted by sustainability and how they can have an impact on driving change means that any employer who hires an ICAEW accredited accountant will be taking huge steps towards valuable change within their organisation.