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Kreston Reeves winning an Accounting Excellence Award AccountingWEB Kreston Reeves: Embedding ESG in the boardroom
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Kreston Reeves: Embedding ESG in the boardroom

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Jennifer Williamson, partner at Kreston Reeves and winner of the 2023 Accounting Excellence Pride Award for ESG, explains why the firm is focusing on environmental, social and governance initiatives and the importance of being a responsible business.
 

25th Mar 2024
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In March 2023, Kreston Reeves obtained B Corp certification, marking a significant milestone in the firm’s environment, social and governance (ESG) journey. However, the firm’s commitment to ESG principles began well before then, gaining momentum in 2020 when the firm clearly defined its purpose “to guide clients, colleagues and communities to a brighter future”.

They reached their goal of making a difference and being recognised as a sustainable and socially focused adviser when they won the first Pride Award for ESG at the 2023 Accounting Excellence Awards.

Committed to being purpose-led 

Jennifer Williamson (pictured above accepting the Accounting Excellence Award) spoke about the reasons that prompted Kreston Reeves to prioritise ESG initiatives within the firm.

“We’ve always been passionate about giving back to our communities and looking to minimise the impact we have on our planet, whether through fundraising or adopting sustainable business practices. In recent years, the drive is becoming ever more urgent. Our people care, our clients care and our communities care,” she said. 

Williamson shared that the firm’s main motivation was the commitment to being purpose-led, which they established during the pandemic. She said, “Although we were forced to work remotely and separately, we used this time to come ‘together’ as a firm and reflect on what we really stand for and why we exist.

“We realised this was something we’ve been doing throughout our 200 years of history, but this clarity of definition focused and empowered our efforts. We are a people business – people make up our entire firm and we exist to support people,” Williamson added. 

After deciding on their clear focus, Kreston Reeves sought ways to become a purpose-driven advisory firm. This led them to explore adopting the principles of a B Corp, ultimately resulting in their achievement of B Corp certification in 2023.

The impacts of ESG initiatives 

ESG initiatives play a crucial role in shaping both corporate strategies and societal impact. Williamson spoke about the impact that ESG has had on them as a firm and their clients. 

In addition to attaining B Corp certification, Kreston Reeves has accomplished and established various initiatives by prioritising ESG efforts. These include: 

  • having ESG efforts aligned with four United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs): good health/wellbeing, quality education, reduced inequalities and climate action
  • creating the Kreston Reeves community, people in the firm who are passionate about making change and driving ESG goals
  • achieving carbon neutrality in 2022
  • publishing an annual impact report for transparency
  • partnering with Ecologi and helping clients measure their carbon footprint
  • planting a tree for every client, every year since 2021. 

“It is a genuinely shared purpose across the entire firm and that can be seen in what collectively we have achieved over a relatively short time,” Williamson said.  

Importance of involving everyone 

As a large firm, Kreston Reeves emphasises the significance of involving everyone, rather than solely relying on leadership from the partners.

When asked how the firm did this, Williamson said: “We collectively defined our purpose as a firm with all our people. We invited them to a collaborative online workshop where we shared ideas, asked for feedback and answered questions. We also collected ideas and feedback in surveys.

“During the pandemic, we also celebrated what our people were most personally passionate about and looked to align our ESG efforts with the four UN SDGs that meant the most to them. It was incredibly important that it was authentic to us and resonated with them. Our efforts towards aligning with the four UN SDGs are led by passionate and dedicated team members composed of a mix of both partners and non-partners within the firm,” she continued. 

By involving everyone from the outset, there was a strong sense of participation and interest throughout the firm. Williamson noted that this approach has led to sustained high involvement across the firm. “Around 10% of the firm are a part of the Kreston Reeves community as representatives and others are involved through volunteering, fundraising, awareness activities, training, networking and social events.”

Williamson said, “Colleagues look to support each other, the communities in which they live and work and, of course, their clients. This is not new to the firm. It is ingrained in our 200-year history and will continue – it is a journey without an end.”

Always looking to develop 

Kreston Reeves is always searching for ways to develop as part of their ESG journey, maintaining a steady focus on what they can do to improve.

Through its B Corp certification and annual reporting, the firm has a clear framework to monitor success and improvement. Williamson spoke about how this enables them to continually develop and benchmark against best practices.

“Over the next year or so, we will be focusing on further embedding B Corp principles in our strategy and operations, increasing our people’s engagement and satisfaction, developing a more accountable ESG programme and working towards achieving net-zero status,” she said.

In addition, Williamson mentioned that Kreston Reeves is exploring ways to enhance training, incorporating topics such as mental health, unconscious bias and DEI. They also aim to broaden their impact and acknowledge the significance of their role in education, advocacy and raising awareness. She said: “Our people, our greatest asset, will remain at the front of the centre of everything we do.”

Williamson concluded, “We have a real opportunity to be a force for change and make positive, meaningful impacts. That will be the focus going forward. We hope our journey will inspire others to make a difference.”

The entries are now open for the 2024 Accounting Excellence Awards. Click here to submit your entry today.

Replies (6)

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By Trethi Teg
25th Mar 2024 12:32

ESG is one of the reasons that this country will become a third world nation in the next 10 years. Chine, India et al couldn;t care less about ESG.

Add inclusivity, equality and all the other trendy issues that the above will also ignore and that will simply speed our decline.

If that's what the majority of the UK wants, then fine. But we will be happy peasants.

Thanks (7)
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By FactChecker
25th Mar 2024 23:30

I know this is just the 'story' of an award winner ... however, given the nature of the award, it might be expected by readers that a little introspection on relevance/effectiveness might have been in order.

Not a Jeremy Paxman style grilling - but asking how they feel about the first to achieve B Corp Certification announcing a damascene conversion away from it (particularly the need to retain core beliefs without getting dragged into greenwashing et al).
Those are not my opinions ... but see https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/practice/practice-strategy/kung-fu-accou...

Thanks (3)
Locutus of Borg
By Locutus
26th Mar 2024 11:36

ESG … groan. The quotations and much of the article are a word-salad of corporate-speak.

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Replying to Locutus:
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By Paul Crowley
27th Mar 2024 14:42

But that is exactly the way that awards are won.
Plain speaking and getting the job done on time and within budget are so passee.
Virtue signalling is the new little black dress.

Thanks (2)
Replying to Paul Crowley:
Locutus of Borg
By Locutus
27th Mar 2024 17:12

Ironically, many years ago, I started my career at that firm. I bet the crusty farming clients of that era would have a chuckle.

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By Mr J Andrews
26th Mar 2024 16:17

I'm an E.S.B. man personally. A much Fuller commitment.

Thanks (3)