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Earth Week 2022 – Helping businesses to look beyond the numbers

By Andy Rich, managing partner at HW Fisher

This week is Earth Week and a great opportunity for all companies to reflect and consider how they can do things better for people and the planet. 

The pandemic has heightened the focus on a company’s role and responsibility within society. More than ever, customers want to shop from or receive services from businesses that are committed to driving positive change. It’s not only important for clients – but internal stakeholders too. McKinsey recently reported that 70% of employees now demand ‘purposeful’ work. They want the company that they work for and represent to be taking a strong position on environmental and social issues. 

As the world starts to return to a ‘new normal’, it is likely that a company’s previous mission, vision and values no longer fit into today’s context. Now is the perfect time to rethink what your organisation stands for and refresh its purpose. 

This can represent a pivotal shift, and also trigger a number of questions. How do you measure success? Can you achieve both profit and purpose? How do you communicate your values and purpose accurately to stakeholders?

As accountants, we know that it is entirely possible for both profit and purpose to coexist as business objectives, but we do have a very important role to play in this. 

Setting clear and measurable objectives is key

To achieve success, you need to be able to set objectives, measure accurately and then communicate this back to stakeholders. This is where, as chartered accountants, we step in. We work with a number of clients to ensure information disclosed to stakeholders is consistent with the financial statements and the underlying strategies – helping to accurately communicate corporate values and providing transparent information.

Lead with purpose

Can you achieve profit and purpose? Absolutely, but organisations need to shift their priorities to develop this paradigm, and to be truly competitive, there needs to be a genuine vision to look beyond the numbers first. The financial benefit will follow, but in the wise words of Goldman Sachs’ Tim Freshwater which are echoed by many, “if you ignore sustainability, you’re going to be worthless.”

Pre-empting risk

Climate change is likely to have a profound impact on business and on us as individuals; it could lead to significant market corrections and changes in the coming years. Failure by business to respond to the risks has significant implications, such as disruption to supply chains, loss of asset values, and market dislocation. As accountants, our job here is to help pre-empt the risk and make an assessment on the potential implications through the financial statements.

We are at a tipping point when it comes to tackling climate change, and there is no doubt that there is work to be done. We have been working passionately in this area for over 10 years. In 2010 HW Fisher set up a Sustainability division to help our clients to reduce their carbon footprint. We believed at that time and even more resolutely now, that sustainable businesses are better businesses.

It’s an immense responsibility, but also one that we are proud of and continue to tackle head on. 

By Andy Rich, managing partner at HW Fisher

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