London, New York, Toronto (Dec. 16, 2010) – The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants released a landmark survey measuring the state of accounting for sustainability in the UK and North America.
CIMA, AICPA, and CICA surveyed organizational leaders from their respective memberships and conducted interviews with sustainability executives from leading organizations to examine key characteristics of business sustainability, and the level of finance function involvement in corporate sustainability initiatives.
Charles Tilley, CIMA’s Chief Executive, commented: “We are pleased to see CIMA’s members spearheading green practices, with 81 percent of our respondents from large companies reporting that their organization’s sustainability strategies address climate change. Our joint work with the AICPA and CICA through the Prince of Wales’ Accounting for Sustainability Project enables us to share our research and best practice with the other member bodies. We hope this research will inspire and inform further progress in this important area.”
The three accounting organizations are all founding members of the Accounting Bodies Network of the Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project meeting in London today.
“Canada’s CA profession is well positioned to illuminate the relationship between effective social and environmental stewardship and bottom-line performance,” said Lisa French, principal, guidance and support, CICA. “We have long been active in this field and our participation will grow as more organizations recognize that ongoing business success requires sustainable practices. Sustainability is not a one-size-fits-all proposition and accountants can help organizations develop the required infrastructure for effective strategic planning and corporate reporting.”
AICPA Senior Vice President for Member Competency and Development Arleen Thomas said: "As companies both large and small incorporate environmental and social considerations into their strategies for long-term business success, U.S. CPAs and other professional accountants have an important role to play. The survey report highlights the important work that we have to do in the accounting profession which is why the AICPA is taking a leadership role in the U.S. and collaborating with CIMA, CICA and the Prince’s Project to provide global thought leadership and services to help our members develop skills and competence in sustainability accounting and reporting."
Business sustainability is about ensuring that organizations implement environmental, social and economic strategies that contribute to long-term success. Organizations that act in a sustainable manner not only help maintain the well-being of the planet and people, they also create businesses that will survive and thrive in the long run. Leading companies recognize that sustainability performance translates to successful bottom-line business performance, and that investors are attracted to companies that act in a sustainable manner with a focus on long-term profitability and competitive advantage.
Compliance with regulatory requirements remains the most common driver of business sustainability (34 percent of large organizations and 24 percent of smaller organizations, respectively) with profitability and other strategic factors reported as being increasingly significant. After compliance, the next most critical drivers differed between large and small companies:
- 32 percent of large organizations identified managing reputational risk
- 19 percent of smaller companies identified cost cutting efficiency.
Large companies have more robust sustainability capabilities:
- 79 percent of larger companies currently have a formal sustainability strategy, compared to 33 percent of smaller companies, however, an additional 23 percent of smaller companies have plans to formulate a strategy within the next 2 years.
The finance function’s contributions to organizational sustainability programs are highly valued, yet underdeveloped:
- 56 percent of respondents said that finance plays a role in business case/investment analysis\
- 33 percent are tracking sustainability related performance measures.
UK-based organizations appear to be ahead of the curve in terms of implementing sustainability practices and finance function involvement compared to North American organizations.
In an increasingly global community, where economic, environmental, and social issues transcend national and corporate boundaries, 21st century solutions will require a coordinated response by the public and private sectors. Long-term business success will require that sustainable practices be deeply embedded in the “DNA” of all organizations. As companies innovate to better secure their long-term viability, the accounting profession will play an important role. Accountants can serve as leading agents for change by applying their skills and competencies to develop sustainable strategies and facilitate effective implementation, accurate measurement and credible business reporting.
The study is available online at: www.aicpa.org/InterestAreas/BusinessIndustryandGovernment/Resources/Sustainability
The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, founded in 1919, is the world’s leading and largest professional body of Management Accountants, with 171,000 members and students operating in 168 countries, working at the heart of business. CIMA members and students work in industry, commerce and not-for-profit organizations. CIMA works closely with employers and sponsors leading-edge research, constantly updating its qualification, professional experience requirements and continuing professional development to ensure it remains the employers’ choice when recruiting financially-trained business leaders. CIMA is committed to upholding the highest ethical and professional standards of members and students, and to maintaining public confidence in management accountancy. CIMA is proud to be the first professional accounting body to offer a truly global product in the fast-moving area of Islamic Finance.
According to independent research conducted by the University of Bath School of Management, CIMA’s syllabus and examination structure are the most relevant to the needs of business of all the accountancy bodies assessed. See the CIMA Difference report for further information at http://www.cimaglobal.com/About-us/Why-CIMA-is-different/. For more information about CIMA, please visit www.cimaglobal.com. Follow CIMA on Twitter at www.twitter.com/CIMA_News
The Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (www.cica.ca) represents Canada’s CA profession both nationally and internationally. Chartered Accountants (Cas) are Canada’s most valued, internationally recognized profession of leaders in senior management, advisory, financial, tax and assurance roles. Through their integrity, expertise, and internationally recognized qualification standards, Canada’s 77,000 Cas sustain their influence and leadership position both in Canada and globally. As trusted business advisors to Canadian organizations of all sizes, Canada’s Cas foster confidence in Canadian business and contribute to the health and sustainability of Canada’s capital markets and economy. The CICA is a founding member of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) and the Global Accounting Alliance (GAA). For more information, please go to: www.cica.ca/sustainability
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (www.aicpa.org) is the world’s largest association representing the accounting profession, with nearly 370,000 members in 128 countries. AICPA members represent many areas of practice, including business and industry, public practice, government, education, and consulting; membership is also available to accounting students and CPA candidates. The AICPA sets ethical standards for the profession and U.S. auditing standards for audits of private companies, non-profit organizations, federal, state and local governments. It develops and grades the Uniform CPA Examination.
The AICPA maintains offices in New York, Washington, DC, Durham, N.C., Ewing, N.J. and Lewisville, Texas.