Content ideas for accountants: key topics on climate change and ethical business

19th Aug 2021
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Climate change

Last week, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report into climate change came with a bleak warning: that “recent changes in the climate are widespread, rapid, and intensifying, and unprecedented in thousands of years”.

It’s clearer now than it’s ever been that immediate and wide-scale action is needed to prevent the extreme climate events we’re already seeing from worsening. 

Increasingly, businesses are looking for ways they can contribute to that action, and consumers are conscious of the impact of their own spending. 

There’s evidence to suggest COVID-19, too, has had an effect on the way people think about what they buy, with a 2020 report by Accenture saying 60% of people started making more environmentally friendly, sustainable, or ethical purchases from the start of the pandemic.

Ethics and sustainability are undeniably important topics for consumers, businesses and their accountants in 2021 – and if your firm is interested in this, it’s important to show it with content on some key topics that people might be searching for information around.

Net zero

Net zero describes a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in particular carbon dioxide. 

It’s met when the amount emitted into the atmosphere is no more than the amount removed – the idea is to lower emissions as much as possible, then as a last resort offset any remaining emissions with schemes like carbon capture, or planting trees.

The UK Government has committed to achieving net zero by 2050, and most recently announced its goal to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels.

While the largest businesses have the highest carbon emission levels to answer for, it’s still essential for small and medium-sized businesses to get involved and commit to net-zero themselves if that target is to be reached. 

Even aside from the obvious ethical reasons to do so, it has clear business benefits. For one thing, lower energy usage means lower costs. In addition, environmentally-friendly initiatives are often incentivised through grants or tax relief. And being able to say you’re a net-zero business is just another plus for customers or job candidates with a focus on sustainability.

When you’re putting together a content plan, this might translate to topics like:

  • What is net zero?
  • Why does net zero matter for SMEs?
  • How to track and reduce your business’s carbon footprint

Note that those are questions or ‘How to’ queries – the kind of thing people might Google if they’re curious.

Environmental accounting and disclosures

As of 1 April 2019, quoted companies are required to report on their global energy use and large businesses must disclose their UK annual energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

If you’re working with small or medium-sized businesses, they’re unlikely to fall under those requirements, but the Government still says it encourages them to do the same.

Your clients and prospects might want advice on voluntary environmental disclosures, or they might just want to know what the disclosure requirements are and if any apply to them.

Content ideas could include:

  • Do you need to report on climate change in your accounts?
  • What is environmental accounting?
  • What is triple bottom line accounting?

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing

ESG has become something of a buzzword in the investment world, as demand increases for products that contribute towards the greater good. 

As the initials show, this type of investment should fit certain standards for environmental sustainability, as well as addressing social factors such as human rights and diversity, and corporate governance concerns like preventing corruption and promoting responsible management. 

There’s a down-side to the popularity of this idea, as it’s led to an increase in the number of funds that brand themselves as sustainable, without taking substantial actions to back that up – otherwise known as ‘greenwashing’. That, in turn, has made many investors wary of ‘green’ branding in general.

ESG isn’t just relevant for individual investors. It’s also important for any business that might at some point seek investment. 

Being able to demonstrate in concrete terms that they’re making a positive impact on the environment and society – and to show they’ve considered and mitigated the risks posed by issues like climate change – will put them at a distinct advantage compared to businesses that haven’t thought about it.

Your firm could create content on topics such as:

  • What is ESG investing?
  • Understanding ESG labels
  • How to demonstrate your green credentials for investors

Tax incentives for sustainability

Finally, businesses that opt for eco-friendly initiatives can in certain cases benefit from tax relief – or in other cases, they may be exempt from a tax charge.

Many sustainability-related tax charges are aimed at larger businesses, but your clients might still find it useful to know the thresholds at which the climate change levy applies, for example, or how landfill tax works.

There are some areas that do affect small businesses however, such as fuel duty and benefit-in-kind relief for company cars. Vehicles with high carbon emissions have become gradually more expensive in recent years, while electric cars have been incentivised.

Topics to cover include:

  • Why your company car should be electric
  • Environmental taxes for small businesses
  • Tax reliefs for environmentally-friendly businesses

This is just a handful of ideas you could use as a starting point for environment and ethics-related content.

For best results, think about the questions your target niche might have about any of these topics, and the kind of information they would find useful or interesting. 
And if you need any help coming up with ideas, our content team would be happy to talk it through with you in a consultation or strategy workshop.

Further resources:

UK Business Climate Hub 

GOV.UK | Environmental taxes, reliefs and schemes for businesses 

Climate Change Committee | CCC 2021 Progress Report to Parliament 

Confederation of British Industry | CBI and decarbonisation: supporting SMEs on their journey to net-zero 

Federation of Small Businesses | Small business sustainability hub

Ethical Consumer | Ethical Investment Funds 

Editorial: Melissa TredinnickTechnology and innovation editor, PracticeWeb