Accountants are Reliable Partners of Society and Sustainability: WCOA 2022 (ICAI-IFAC)

Several speakers at the WCOA 2022 (ICAI-IFAC) conference said that the accounting profession is a reliable partner in both social and environmental sustainability. During the panel discussion, the topic of trust was discussed in the context of the profession’s role in fostering increased trust in information as well as the trust that society places in professional accountants, as summarised below:

Ms. Partridge, the Director of Accountancy Education at IFAC, began the discussion by asking the attendees how many of them believed that the profession was ready for sustainability and how we were best positioned to deliver sustainability as a profession. The panellists, including Ms. Jelena Misita, Chair of IFAC PAODG; Ms. Anne Marie Vitale, Chairperson of the International Panel on Accountancy Education; Ms. Julia Penney, President of ICAEW; Ms. Thuto Masaba, Head of Advisory, BDO Advisory Services; and Dr. In Ki Joo, Past President of IFAC, were of the opinion that this has been an enormous opportunity to expand the skill set because up-scaling The panel was of the opinion that the accounting profession already possesses the expertise and skills that are necessary for the job and that with some additional training, the profession will be completely prepared to take on the challenge. The conversations centred on the fundamental skills possessed by chartered accountants as well as the partnerships that are necessary to advance the agenda of sustainable development in every region of the world.

Ms. Merran Kelsall, President and Chairman of CPA Australia, emphasised that trust is about concern for the common good and that the accounting profession plays a constructive role in building trust. Trust, once lost, cannot be regained, so it is important that the accounting profession play a constructive role in building trust. In her opinion, the only way to earn someone’s trust is to act in accordance with the Code of Ethics while also serving the public interest. She emphasised the importance of utilising technology and constructing processes in order to eliminate the problem of “window dressing” in reporting.

According to Ms. Julie Linn Teigland, Managing Partner of EMEIA for EY, trust is the “currency” of the accounting profession. She mentioned that professional accountants provide perspective, insights, and support for assurance work, and that trust has to be earned by doing the right thing each and every day. She made the statement that “just like in the world of medicine, where every life matters, in the world of accounting, every audit and opinion matter.”

The Chairperson of the IESBA, Ms. Gabriela Figueiredo Dias, stated that trust is what we focus on each and every day. It is an essential component for the proper operation of the global economic system. Trust is not something that can be created by just one person; rather, it is an ecosystem that is cultivated by all members of society. In order to successfully construct trust, therefore, accountants, corporations, regulatory agencies, and government organisations should all collaborate. She emphasised the significance of the “S” in ESG by stating that the social aspect of sustainability is very important because, as accountants, we are concerned about the welfare of people.

In the opinion of CA Atul Kumar Gupta, Board Member of IFAC and Past President of ICAI, trust is a combination of the 8Cs, which are clarity, compassion, character, competence, commitment, connectivity, contribution, and consistency. These, according to him, are the eight pillars upon which trust is built. He stated that India would be one of the first countries to make it mandatory for the top 1000 publicly traded companies to submit a Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR).

Mr. Alan Johnson, the outgoing president of IFAC, is of the opinion that the accounting profession ought to be regarded as a profession of trust by the rest of the world. In his closing remarks, he stated that the profession of accounting is the profession of purpose and that it is precisely this profession that has the potential to save the world by catering to the requirements of each and every member of society.

CA (Dr) Sanjeev Kumar Singhal, Chairman of the Sustainability Reporting Standards Board and Auditing & Assurance Standards Board (SRSB) of the ICAI, praised the fact that India is hosting the first ever sustainable and carbon neutral World Congress of Accountantsin the year 2022. He informed the audience that India has become one of the first countries to make it mandatory for the top 1000 publicly traded companies to submit a Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR). In addition to that, he mentioned that the first maturity model for sustainability reporting that was provided by SRSB was hosted on the website of IFAC.

In the concluding remarks, the Past President of the IFAC, Dr. In Ki Joo, stated that “the accounting profession has a critical role in building a strong and sustainable economy.”

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