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Sustainability Reporting: Don’t Miss this Opportunity

Business-inventoryWhether boosting the bottom line, preserving the planet or a combination of the two, sustainability has officially crossed the threshold of America’s businesses, with many of the greatest skeptics even now realizing that it’s here to stay. In fact, according to the Governance & Accountability Institute’s report: 2012 Corporate Environmental, Social and Governance / Sustainability / Responsibility Reporting – Does It Matter? Analysis of S&P 500 Companies’ ESG Reporting Trends and Capital Markets Response, “53 percent of S&P 500 Index companies are currently disclosing ESG information, compared to about 19-20 percent of the S&P 500 reporting in 2010.”

Sustainability’s momentum is being fueled by a large, influential and growing majority of supporters: business leaders. They recognize that sustainability-minded organizations are more committed to management checks and balances, informed decision-making and community goodwill. What follows is an organization’s reputation for greater stability, less risk and a more secure market value. Sustainability-minded organizations are among the top choices when retailers and other businesses create vendor relationships, select investment candidates and make purchase decisions.

What does sustainability’s growing position mean for CPAs, especially in terms of reporting and assurance services? It signals a tremendous opportunity for us to grow our expertise and services in the nonfinancial areas that have become increasingly important to business decision making, further expand our role to a broadening base of clients and improve our reputation and brand. However, to capitalize on this opportunity, we need to be as successful, and as aggressive, in positioning ourselves as value-add experts in sustainability and other nonfinancial areas, as we have been in accounting, auditing and other financial subjects. Otherwise, we’ll fall short of meeting clients’ nonfinancial needs and relinquish a vital service to competitors.  

As CPAs, there’s a lot we can do to make sustainability a core service and position our profession as recognized and in-demand experts in the area. We can be an integral part of sustainability’s impact on reporting and performance and, in the process, build interest and enthusiasm among our clients, prospective clients and fellow CPAs.

Creating a new mindset, and changing our own and others’ behavior, is never easy but it can be done and done successfully. It requires that we stay up-to-date on the latest developments and trends in sustainability, and the AICPA can help. The AICPA® Sustainability Assurance and Advisory Task Force is committed to positioning the profession as the preferred provider of sustainability reporting, assurance and related services. The task force identifies business-building trends, offers guidance, shares methodologies and creates alliances with industry, government and other groups that can open doors to new opportunities. The AICPA also offers a wide range of web events, workshops and other resources.

If you’d like to better understand the link between sustainability initiatives and their ultimate financial effects on the underlying organization, the AICPA is hosting a webinar, The Economics of Sustainability, 2 to 3 p.m. ET on June 14. You can find additional information on sustainability on AICPA.org.         

Bob Bunting, CPA. Bob is the chair of the AICPA Sustainability Reporting and Assurance Task force and the Moss Adams LLP's Sustainability Services Group.

Business inventory image via Shutterstock

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