The Great Debate: Accountants and the Environment - Part Two

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"This house believes that accountants are not professionally obliged to promote environmentalism.”



Proposer:

Rob Lewis, practice editor, AccountingWEB.co.uk

Read Rob's speech http://www.accountingweb.co.uk/cgi-bin/i

Continued...

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Comments

Better, greener business

Anonymous | | Permalink

When the EU legislation is ratified we will no longer be debating the need for accountants to be the drivers for their clients’ environmental responsibility – it will be part of their duty to advise their clients on the best green strategies for their business in order to satisfy the balance between the future profitability of the business and the environmental obligations of its directors.

As Jairo Rojas of the software industry association says, IT and accountancy software is central to the green debate. SaaS has been one development that succeeded in making greener business practices a reality – even for small businesses. While the current economic climate and the need to cut costs in business may be driving businesses to SaaS, this is just a by-product of the times. Longer term, it’s the green credentials and the efficiencies of SaaS that will see it win the day.

How is online acounting green?
̶ Shared servers and disk space reduces the impact of server farms on the environment
̶ Web based software with automatic online software updates means no waste from software distribution and packaging
̶ One of the key benefits of online accounting is the ability for both the accountant and bookkeeper/client to access the accounts at the same time in ‘real time’. Questions can be answered immediately without having to travel, eliminating the associated emissions. Face to face meetings will always be necessary from a relationship point of view, but in terms of accounting efficiency online accounting saves both time and costs.
̶ All documents can be scanned and viewed online – including invoice generation, which for businesses with a high volume of invoicing will reduce the carbon footprint and costs generated by paper, printing and delivery. The EC is planning to put forward a number of proposals this year designed to incentivise firms to stop using paper-based invoices in favour of online invoicing systems for this very reason.

In a post recessionary environment it will be those businesses that have embraced change and made long term green investments that will benefit in the new reduced carbon economy.
Online accounting can help companies and accountants to meet the challenge!

Freedom from Evil

Paul Scholes's picture

Who cares?

Paul Scholes | | Permalink

I've watched this (not so) Great Debate to see if it developed. I wasn't holding my breath for a flood of contributions but I have been shocked by how few Aweb readers can be bothered to pass a comment. I know most are accountants but this is hopeless?

From a business standpoint, Jairo’s final paragraph sums it up for me, decision time is coming and it’s pointless being on the back of the bandwagon where you have no chance of steering it.

At its most basic (business or otherwise) the debate revolves around waste. In everything we do, ie consuming or providing, how efficient can we be and do we want to transact with others (including clients) who care or do less than we do?

For years I have advised on risk, efficiency & compliance and environmental issues will rank alongside, if not ahead of, tax & accounts (thank god).

A Great Opportunity for Accountants in Practice.

KEVINGM | | Permalink

In support of Jairo’s position I would also like to highlight the huge opportunity that accountants in practice may have in assisting companies with auditing their measurement of carbon emissions.

As Ronald Duncan stated the Climate Change Bill now sets out a timetable for making the reporting of carbon emissions a mandatory requirement for UK companies. Unless the UK Government can come up with a substantive reason why carbon emissions reporting would not assist it in achieving its tough climate change objectives then there will be an obligation to amend the Companies Act to make this a mandatory requirement by April 2012.

The UK Government is also obliged to provide guidance to businesses on reporting carbon emissions by 1st October this year.

With this additional legislative pressure building, there will be a market for the auditing of carbon reporting. Businesses will need to have their claims substantiated. For a standard trading company, the process for auditing carbon emission figures is very similar to that of a financial audit. I would very much hope that accounting practices and their professional bodies embrace this challenge and look to play an active role in the government’s consultation on carbon reporting that will take place later this year. This is a significant revenue opportunity for the profession which will fall to the hands of specialist carbon consulting companies if accountants take a passive stance.

Ignoring the green opportunity is a major business risk

Peter Robertshaw | | Permalink

Letting green issues slip off the corporate agenda is a major business risk - even in a difficult year like 2009 - from the perspectives of cost, revenue, opportunity, reputation and supply chain continuity. Finance professionals have a key role to play in keeping these issues in front of the board.

As Ronald points out, more and more legislation is appearing over the horizon and the accountancy profession needs to be prepared and advising management teams accordingly. This will include ensuring IT systems and processes will be up to the job.

As Jairo states, truly embracing the green issue and turning it into a business opportunity for revenue or cost reduction, should remain high on the CFO or FD’s agenda.

Legal Compliance and the Environment

ronaldduncan | | Permalink

An accountants role is to confirm our clients view of their business and help them to meet their objectives. Clearly these vary depending on the ownership of the business and its strategy. However there are a number of things that are mandatory for any business.

Such as Legal Compliance

And others things which most organisations subscribe to like improving or maintaining profitability.

The Climate change act has introduced a requirement for the Secretary of state to make provision for carbon accounting. This will then be a legal requirement when introduced. We can take part in the consultation or not.

For larger clients carbon reduction commitments are now passed into law, and will affect them in future years, along with recycling and other environmental law that has already been passed.

Thus there are some clients that are already affected by legal requirements and we have an obligation to ensure that these risks are addressed as part of audit, and once carbon accounting becomes a requirement all of our customers will have a legal requirement and we will have a similar obligation to our clients to address this issue.

I think the debate has already taken place in Westminster, and we need to choose if we take part in influencing the implementation.