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Taking the Leap Toward Sustainability

Wind-farmIs the United States somewhat behind the rest of the world when it comes to embracing sustainability practices and reporting? Some seem to think so.  However, a shift has occurred over the last couple of years as companies are beginning to recognize that sustainable business practices are simply good for business. This point was made in a conversation between Susan Coffey, AICPA Senior Vice President, Public Practice and Global Alliances, and Jessica Fries, Executive Chairman and Board Director of the Prince of Wales Accounting for Sustainability Project, also known as A4S. Many companies around the world are beginning to take notice of risks within their business models, such as their reliance on non-renewable forms of energy or their excessive water consumption, and are working toward replacing these practices with sustainable solutions.

Coffey and Fries’ discussion reminded me of a conversation I had with Steve Leffin, Director of Sustainability for UPS. Steve’s team works toward reaching the company’s long-term goal of minimizing dependence on fossil fuels by improving operational efficiencies and advancing new technologies. When shipping packages, UPS considers the most fuel-efficient mode of transport. Leffin explains, “In the US, we avoid a million metric tons of emissions by shifting from ground to rail very fluidly, where we are able to still deliver on time while using a more efficient mode of transport.” Trains provide a lower carbon alternative compared to road or air transport. UPS is thus able to consume less fuel, thereby further preserving the environment while saving the company money at the same time. As Coffey and Fries discussed, adopting sustainable practices is not only good for the environment, it is also simply good for business. 

As more and more companies begin implementing sustainable business practices, service opportunities for CPAs will increase in the areas of sustainability reporting and assurance. CPAs in industry and in practice can play a critical role in formulating and applying sustainability strategies and monitoring progress. CPAs help create the vital link between investment in the strategy and the commercial benefit that accrues.  Additionally, CPAs can assist clients throughout their reporting journey, from implementing the appropriate systems, processes and controls to providing assurance on the reported information. CPAs should take advantage of the various opportunities available. To learn more about the CPA’s role in sustainability, visit the AICPA’s Sustainability Reporting and Assurance webpage. For more on the future role of sustainability in business watch the video below.

What has been your experience with sustainability reporting and assurance? What are your thoughts on companies adopting sustainable business practices?

Desiré Carroll, Senior Technical Manager – IFRS and Sustainability, American Institute of CPAs.

Wind farm image via Shutterstock

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