Every business has to play its part for Wales to realise the ambition of a greener, stronger, fairer Wales.
However, for SMEs, with limited resources compared to larger companies and facing a wide range of day to day challenges, this can be a difficult area to navigate. Research from ACCA in 2021 found that only 8% of SMEs had set net-zero targets for 2050. One in four of the 3,500 respondents said they felt they lacked the professional skills required to become sustainable.
And that is where financial professionals come in.
Finance professionals play an important part in supporting businesses – within an SME or as an accountant supporting an SME. Most decisions that are made in a business have to involve finance professionals. They are a key function that connects with all other areas of the business, driving growth and performance. And that means they have a unique vantage point in seeing where a business has to go to make itself greener and more sustainable. Finance professionals need to ensure that they are using this role as key partners and trusted advisers to support the changes businesses need to achieve.
Finance professionals play a key role in understanding the business, its position in the supply chain and its sustainability progress to date. Accountants can support a business in calculating its carbon footprint, developing a sustainability strategy, setting goals and measuring progress in achieving those goals. They can also advise on opportunities for reducing costs, for instance by increasing energy efficiency, advising on reshaping business models or accessing external finance, external grants or tax reliefs to make changes.
ACCA has produced a toolkit to support accountants and SMEs: SME Toolkit: Creating a sustainable world | ACCA Global. This sets out practical steps for embedding sustainable practices within organisations, case studies, and links to a variety of tools and resources that can support accountants and SMEs in their sustainability journey.
Accountants aren’t naïve – they know that more needs to be done: more climate change considerations in financial planning and decision making; more investment to make businesses sustainable; adapting to new accounting frameworks and standards which provide measurement, transparency and comparability and which will increasingly impact on SMEs through their involvement in the supply chain.
Achieving net zero will be a tough fight to win, but without accountants playing their part it will be one we’ll all lose.