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Chartered Accountants call on finance sector to lead by example in promoting sustainability and diversity

sustainable development in business

Chartered Accountants are encouraging finance companies to share their knowledge widely, and promote diversity, as ways to work towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Following the launch of Finance & Business2030, Chartered Accountants Worldwide polled over 120 delegates from the public, private and third sectors for their reactions.

FinBiz2030 is a joint initiative between One Young World, Chartered Accountants Worldwide and the City of London. It launched in London on 2 April at a conference that featured finance and business professionals discussing ways to work towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We asked them four questions about how the finance and business community could make the greatest contribution to achieving the goals.Here’s what they told us, about shaping a more inclusive and sustainable future.

 

Sharing knowledge through education

Education was a recurring theme for many of our survey respondents. Many said the financial sector should pass on knowledge to others as a first step.“If we’re actually going to build inclusivity, we need to start financial literacy from a young age,” said one delegate. They stressed the importance of sharing finance knowledge and skills through education..

“The future is about education: how much financial education do schools get and how do we share our knowledge and experiences with the younger generations?” asked one delegate. Education is about more than passing down knowledge; one of our Chartered Accountants said the UN goals should be part of the curriculum, especially for MBAs.

Another respondent added: “The amount of people who know about the SDGs is limited in comparison to the majority of the population, and this is where targeted activism needs to be utilised. The finance community has a key role to play here as they reach every part of every organisation.  They could be a key force for promoting and achieving the goals.”

Watch Michael Izza, Chairman of Chartered Accountants Worldwide, talk about the “biggest issue” facing finance and business professionals today.

 

Leading by example

If financial organisations can successfully change their organisational culture, they would lead by example in driving towards the goals, our delegates agreed. One said: “The finance industry has a huge reach and therefore can influence other industries, for example through ethical procurement.”

This leadership is particularly important when it comes to diversity. One of our respondents noted that many business are UK based and focused; the value of bringing in people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives means they are open to global solutions.

One of the post-event actions will see the formation of a task force to try to tackle the issue of diversity. Practical actions to change the status quo include putting more diverse people in senior positions and on company boards. Another delegate specified that this diversity should encompass gender, race and sexuality. This would create a situation where groups of different people could challenge each other’s ideas. “Otherwise, if everyone thinks the same, no one will change anything,” they said.

One delegate said that after the FinBiz2030 event, they would take action specifically to achieve gender equality and reduce inequalities in their own organisation. “On a daily basis I experience significant inequalities in regard to the LGBT community in financial services. I want to see a turnaround on this by the time we reach 2030 and will therefore drive actions to achieve this goal,” they told us.

 

Providing rigorous oversight

Financial firms should start making sustainability one of their formal KPIs, rather than treating it as a corporate social responsibility exercise. “Making reporting on sustainability mandatory,” was the suggestion of one of our panel.

A natural consequence of this would see the need for specialist third parties to provide oversight of sustainability activity in the financial sector – much like how credit rating agencies monitor companies’ financial health. A related suggestion was to make the data from this process publicly available, allowing consumers to make informed choices about where they spend money.

One delegate commented: “Data transparency is quite important for the finance and business community. Reporting and data in a transparent way helps make it much more meaningful.”

Another said: “Measurement tools can’t be made optional; a third party that holds organisations accountable is required to ensure that the financial sector makes the greatest contribution. There is a need for specialists in this to ensure that organisations have the most current and accurate data on corporate sustainability.”

Other recommendations included making financial providers incentivise lending that prioritises sustainability and development projects. Another delegate suggested that ensuring companies pay their tax is “better than aid”.

This is the third in a series of four articles looking at the goals of Finance & Business2030. Read the first two articles here. Be sure to check back for more exclusive coverage here on Charteredaccountantsworldwide.com.

Working towards the SDGs closely aligns with Chartered Accountants Worldwide’s goal of #BuildingTrust. See our inspirational video highlighting what it means to be a Chartered Accountant.