Accounting for Climate Change: How Chartered Accountants Worldwide members are raising awareness of climate change

Accounting for climate change

Awareness raising can be a powerful tool in the climate crisis, helping people to understand the risks and realise how changing their behaviour could lead to better outcomes.

In the third of our four part series of articles, we highlight what practical steps Chartered Accountants Worldwide member institutes are taking to tackle the burning issue of climate change and sustainability.

In this article, we’re focusing on awareness raising and education. Our member institutes have been engaging with their own members on  initiatives that range from integrating climate messaging into education and CPD programmes, to creating thought leadership and supporting content.

Awareness raising in Australia and New Zealand

Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) has been supporting organisations to best address climate change by identifying material risks with financial consequences, and by providing them with the information needed to make decisions. This includes providing relevant financial and strategic analysis, disclosure, scenario analysis and assurance to help organisations generate and preserve value.

As part of its awareness raising work, CA ANZ has produced opinion pieces, factual articles and worked with academics and other organisations to produce reports that support the role accountants will have in this area. One example of this is research supported by CA ANZ and carried out by the University of Melbourne, to develop a model for estimating carbon capture by trees, which was the first comprehensive study of its kind in an Australian urban environment.

CA ANZ also provides various education offerings for both candidates and members. Continuing Professional Development is delivered via webinar, virtual classroom and eConference and covers GHG accounting, modern slavery, climate risk, sustainable business and integrated reporting/Extended External Reporting (EER).

Sustainability is also incorporated into various subjects of the core CA Program, including the final Integrated Accounting Practice (ICAP). A new elective subject focusing on sustainability for accountants has been introduced as well as an elective on non-financial assurance.

ICAS and Sustainability

The ICAS Sustainability Panel is working with the ICAS Learning team to integrate greater sustainability and climate change-related content within the institute’s training syllabus at all three levels. Some of this content has been introduced into the 2021 syllabus.

ICAS is one of twelve UK professional bodies that have signed up to the Green Finance Education Charter, which commits the institute to integrating green and sustainable finance principles into finance professionals’ education and training programmes.

ICAS is also working with its CPD provider to include greater sustainability and climate change content in its CPD courses. The institute’s website also has a range of climate change resources produced for CPD purposes.

Content to educate in South Africa

In South Africa, SAICA leaned heavily into producing content to raise awareness and educate its members. This content took the form of written articles, videos and podcasts to showcase the importance of climate change. Initiatives like #SustainableSA aims to make members aware of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (specifically SDG 13) as well as through the Finbiz2030 South African Task Team for SDG 13.

Aside from producing content like podcasts and content specifically for members, SAICA also released thought leadership online and published articles in the Accountancy SA member magazine. In addition, thought leadership articles were also distributed to external media. These articles covered topics like making climate-related disclosures compulsory, and the increasing importance of climate risk in financial reporting.

Encouragement to take action in England and Wales

ICAEW set up a dedicated climate hub in 2019 with resources, information and inspiration to encourage businesses and individuals to act now. This is part of the group’s commitment to enable its members, students and the broader profession to respond to the challenges.

In October 2021, in the run up to the COP26 summit, ICAEW will hold a five-day virtual summit of events, videos, podcasts, and articles to help ICAEW chartered accountants act on climate. This is the first summit bringing members from across the profession together on the issue of climate change. In addition, ICAEW are partnering with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland and Chartered Accountants Ireland to get 1 000 chartered accountants to sign up to the UNFCCC Race to Zero campaign by COP26.

Raising awareness in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, over and above the ongoing lectures and climate related webinars, there is now a program for both public and private organisations to lead and participate in training sessions. This training program has been gathering a lot of momentum, with there being large uptake in those wanting to get trained on matters around ESG and climate action.

ICAZ is also contributing to a column in one of the national newspapers. This will be used as a platform to help spread the message and raise awareness amongst the public as to what Chartered Accountants can do for Climate Change.

India identifies champions of sustainability goals

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) has taken several steps in its awareness efforts, including creating a five-day certificate course for members about business responsibility and sustainability reporting (BRSR), which covers climate change-related reporting.

Aiming to develop members’ interest in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, ICAI has also been identifying “champions of SDGs” and inviting suggestions from members on how to reduce carbon emissions. They also released a publication about an accounting standard on assurance engagements for greenhouse gases, along with background material on Business Responsibility and Sustainability Reporting (BRSR) and a publication about the role of accountants in sustainability.

Online route for Ireland in guiding members on the climate challenges

Chartered Accountants Ireland launched a dedicated sustainability hub on its website with information, guidance and support to help members understand sustainability and meet the challenges it presents. The Institute also published a guide, Sustainability for Accountants, detailing the risks and opportunities presented by sustainability, and the steps that need to be taken to address the challenges.

Its flagship publications, Accountancy Ireland and Briefly, regularly feature sustainability-related content, including in its podcast series. Chartered Accountants Ireland also runs knowledge and networking events, connecting experts with each other, and providing accountant-relevant information on the topic of climate change. Its largest event this year was a Sustainability Conference held in June, with keynote speakers including Government ministers.

Sustainability was introduced in September 2019 as part of the FAE Academic cycle and is also a topic area in its professional development programme. A new CPD course, Demystifying Sustainability for Accountants, has also now been launched, explaining why sustainability is relevant for business, finance and accountancy in this changing world.

Learning and collaboration on sustainability in Singapore

For the past number of years, ISCA has placed a lot of emphasis on the roles of CFOs and finance professionals in driving sustainable business practices. It envisages the accountants of the future galvanising their organisations towards adopting green initiatives and quality sustainability reporting.

As part of its awareness raising efforts, ISCA developed an eLearning module in 2020 called Sustainability Reporting – Relevance of Sustainability Reporting to the Accountant. The programme provides an introduction to sustainability and sustainability reporting and insights into how sustainability is relevant to businesses and the accountant’s role.

To equip accountants and support the Singapore Government’s 2030 green plan, ISCA is exploring activities and collaboration opportunities to promote the adoption of green finance. Sustainability was also the theme of the institute’s flagship Professional Accountants In Business (PAIB) Conference in August.