Deterioration of natural resources, a global population explosion and financial market instability will be the main impacts on the global business environment in the next 10 years, says research from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) published on the 10th anniversary of the Prince of Wales Accounting for Sustainability Project (A4S).
Conducted to mark the occasion, and on behalf of the of A4S Project, ACCA surveyed more than 4,500 ACCA students who were asked their opinions, as finance professionals of the future, about how global macro sustainability trends will impact businesses and the role of accountants in countering these pressures and challenges.
A massive 81% said the main impact on business by 2024 would be a decline in natural resources; 70% said an increasing population would be impactful, with this seen as more prominent amongst respondents in Africa, South Asia and Western Europe (73%, 72% and 70% respectively).
Instability in the financial markets was a major concern for 67% of respondents, with more prominence placed on this in the Caribbean and Africa at 80% and 72% respectively.
Ewan Willars, director of policy at ACCA, said: “The sustainability agenda has accelerated in the last decade, and we congratulate His Royal Highness on the success of A4S and look forward to more decades working together to raise the issue of sustainability.
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“But there is clearly more to be done. It worries me greatly that only a small majority, of 35%, see the world in ten years as being a better place to live. However it is positive that many more believe that sustainability issues will become more central to their area of work.
“The ACCA finance professionals of the future see the next 10 years as being one of change – they know that as finance professionals they will have to do more to provide businesses with more decision-making insight than now – such as forecasting and reporting on what might happen in the future, rather than recording what has happened. But they are attuned to this need and that bodes well for the future – one respondent said ‘It is only natural that the accountant should be most qualified to quantify the costs of environmental negligence and sustainability, and report these to other officers.’”
Ewan Willars concludes: “True sustainability is where resources are maintained and where capital – whether natural, economic, social or human – is sustained. Good, effective sustainability policies are those which see business as being deeply connected with communities and the natural world, not separate from it. Accountants cannot afford to be isolated from this issue, and our research shows that they are willing and ready to be engaged, and to be part of a sustainable future.”
Sarah Nolleth, Director of A4S, said: “Ten years on from the launch of A4S, significant progress has been made to develop practical approaches that integrate sustainability into financial decision-making, reflecting the interdependency between financial, economic, social and environmental outcomes. However, we will all see the consequences of global environmental constraints, especially the accountancy students who are at the beginning of their financial careers. It is this cohort who we need to encourage to adopt accounting for sustainability throughout their careers.”
For more information about ACCA’s research – Sustainability and business: the next ten years – visit http://www.accaglobal.com/gb/en/technical-activities/technical-resources-search/2014/december/sustainability-and-business.html#