Sustainability

  The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBSCD) is running free events next week for companies looking for become 'nature positive'.  The events are part of a programme called the We Value Nature 10-Day Challenge Event and it is running from 11-24 March. The Institute of Chartered Accountants England and Wales (ICAEW) has been a key partner in this project with WBSCD. There are + 40 practical sessions relating to nature, so the event is the perfect opportunity for companies to take the next step(s) on its journey towards becoming nature positive.   WBCSD will be running a series of sessions during the event including: Nature-based solutions for business: everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask – register here Launch of Food & Beverage tailored training on natural capital – register here for the 1st session and here for the 2nd one Applying Enterprise Risk Management to manage your relationship with natural capital – register here Transparent: co-developing standardized natural capital accounting and valuation principles for business – register here Business action on valuing water – register here Check out the full program here and REGISTER NOW!  

Mar 05, 2021
Sustainability

  In this week’s Public Policy news, read about a €20 million grant scheme to help European SMEs protect and develop their IP; a report showing a substantial increase in the number of Irish companies reporting their carbon emissions; the publication of the Economy Recovery Action Plan for Northern Ireland and the UK Budget for a strong recovery and greener economy. €20 million grant scheme for IP protection and development Irish SMEs now can access a grant fund of €20 million to protect and develop their intellectual property rights. The Ideas Powered for Business SME scheme, which commenced on 1 March 2021, was created to help European small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) protect their intellectual property rights at national, regional or EU level. Under the scheme SMEs are entitled to 50 percent off the basic trademark and design application fees. The scheme is operated by the EUIPO in conjunction with the national IP Offices including the Intellectual Property Office of Ireland. “A three-way environmental crisis” – Minister Ryan describes challenges facing Irish businesses Successful achievement of our climate goals will need coordination between government and individual companies, according to Gavin Whitaker, a director with Clearstream Solutions, who this week hosted the launch of the CDP Ireland Annual Report 2020 along with colleague Brian O’Kennedy in Clearstream Solutions. The report showed that there has been a 52 percent increase in Irish companies – giving a total of 47 companies – reporting their carbon emissions over the past year. This increase is in part due to investor scrutiny, customer competitive focus and EU regulation according to  Brian O’Kennedy, who commented that climate change “is now an integral part of the annual reporting cycle of many Irish companies”. The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is an international, not-for-profit organisation that measures the environmental impact of companies. Companies looking to improve their performance in CDP rankings set targets to reduce emissions, and also manage their impact on water and forestry through science-based targets (SBTi). The CDP Ireland Network represents the CDP’s interests in Ireland. Speaking at the launch of the CDP Ireland Annual Report 2020, Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan, TD, described the challenges facing Ireland in the next decade as a ‘three-way environmental crisis’, involving not just climate, but also the loss of biodiversity, and increased levels of pollution. Minister Ryan pointed to the responsibility of the business sector to reduce its CO2 emissions from 8 million to 4 million tonnes in the next 10 years in order to meet both national and EU targets. Minister Ryan advised businesses to plan for how they will have their emissions within the next 5-10 years, as well as planning to become part of the circular economy. “Once again open for business.” Minister Dodds publishes Northern Ireland’ Economy Recovery Action Plan Economy Minister Diane Dodds has launched the Economy Recovery Action Plan for rebuilding Northern Ireland’s economy from the impact of COVID-19. Describing the Action Plan as “the blueprint to rebuild a stronger economy in Northern Ireland”, Minister Dodds announced that it would focus on where the greatest opportunity is to drive innovation and develop the skills and capability of the workforce to secure better jobs. Drivers to recovery identified in the report are:   supporting a highly-skilled workforce stimulating research and development building a greener economy and promoting investment, trade and exports. Actions the Department plans to take to stimulate growth include the development of a flexible skills fund, widening access to apprenticeships, and developing a green innovation challenge fund. The Economic Recovery Action Plan can be found on the Department for the Economy website. “A strong recovery and greener economy” UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, presented his Budget to the UK Parliament this week. Describing the Budget, Chancellor Sunak said that it “lays the foundations for a strong recovery and greener economy, levelling up the country and spreading prosperity across every part of the UK.” Among the measures mentioned under ‘investment-led recovery’ was the planned issue by the UK of at least £15 billion in green bonds to help finance the transition to net zero and the UK government’s planned launch the world’s first sovereign green savings bond for retail investors. These will contribute to the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a green industrial revolution. You can read more about the UK Budget in our Tax News UK Budget 2021 Special. Read all our updates on our Public Policy web centre

Mar 05, 2021
Sustainability

  The March issue of the The Bottom Line, the Student Publication from Chartered Accountants Ireland, explores sustainability and personal responsibility. It takes a look into the future job market for accountants, including a strategic focus on climate change, and hear from a newly qualified Chartered Accountant who is excelling in the ESG arena. Read the March issue now.

Mar 01, 2021
Sustainability

The accountants of tomorrow are facing very different prospects than those of the past. Here is where the profession is likely to take you in the years after qualification. Lots of things are going to change when it comes to the future of work, but there are three areas, in particular, that are going to have an incredible impact on the careers of accountants over the coming decade. Automation Automation is here, and it’s a game-changer. Big 4 consulting teams in the areas of business process transformation are ramping up globally as companies, big and small, begin to heavily invest in automaton. In the not-too-distant future, it’s not going to be good enough to be able to just do the debits and credits. It’s going to become more about using the numbers to help the business make better decisions.  As a result, the accounting profession will be filtered into one of two routes: project/change management roles overseeing the implementation and development of automations and finance business partnering roles, as the numbers that come out the other end of the automations will still need to be interpreted and explained to the business. Sustainability Everyone knows that climate change is going to take centre stage once the pandemic subsides. It will likely become the number one strategic priority for most product-based businesses (and many service-based ones, too!). From redesigning supply chains to transforming from shareholder to stakeholder value orientations, companies will need finance professionals to play a key role in developing the financial models to achieve these new strategic priorities while ensuring the long-term viability of the businesses themselves. Accountants will play a key business partnering role in this evolution. Did someone say data?   Over the coming decade, accountants will be faced with the reality that it’s not just about financial numbers anymore – it’s about both financial and non-financial numerical data and how they interact and impact each other.  For the accountants of tomorrow, it is going to be about occupying this new space, where Excel ends and where Power BI, Tableau and other tools begin. It’s going to be about making sense of large data sets, gleaning information from them, using that information to derive insights and using those insights to inform strategic and tactical decisions. Data runs through sustainability and is wed to automation. The accountants that invest in their analytics skills and make it their business to get experience in some of the emerging tools will be the ones that end up having the greatest impact. If you’re going to qualify as an accountant in the coming years, then your future is going to look very different to that of the last generation. It will be more about business and less about accruals; more about how financial and non-financial numerical data interact and less about statutory reporting; more about soft skills and less about consolidations.  For some, this will be exciting. For others, it will be intimidating. But, for all, it’s a reality. And, for everyone, it’s an opportunity.   Ed Heffernan is the Managing Partner of Barden.

Mar 01, 2021
Sustainability

Niamh Dooley was once on the road to being an engineer and now is an audit professional in Deloitte’s financial services practice working with the advisory team on sustainability with a focus on climate accounting. She discusses how easy it is for someone’s path to change. Five years ago, where did you think you would be now? Have you lived up to your own expectations?  Five years ago, I was three years into my energy engineering degree and on work placement in GlaxoSmithKline with the expectation to work in a similar position once I got my degree. Needless to say, I chose a different route, but I’ve taken a lot of what I learned there into my current role.  What has been the biggest challenge of your career?  So far, the biggest challenge has been entering a new industry and changing my career path to accountancy and audit. With no business background, it definitely took a lot of hard work to bridge the knowledge gap between me and my peers, and get through such a volume of exams.  What do you wish you had known earlier in life?  It’s never too late to change your mind and your decisions at 17 are never for life, despite what you’re told.   Where do you see yourself this time next year?  I hope to be developing my role in advisory for sustainability and climate reporting, and bringing clients’ attention to the need to report on environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosures. The European Commission’s Green Deal and Action Plan has helped drive the need for more consistent reporting on ESG, with specific regulations like the EU Taxonomy and the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation. My aspiration is to use what I learned in my degree and, as a Chartered Accountant, to help clients create a sustainable business model and report on ESG information.  Who inspires you, personally and professionally?  Personally, my parents inspire me every day. Professionally, it’s my colleagues and mentors in Deloitte.  How has being a Chartered Accountant changed your life?  Being a Chartered Accountant has made me a more motivated individual and has created opportunities for me to build a career I truly enjoy while also making an impact on society. A career in an organisation like Deloitte has helped me build my technical and soft skills, and I can now use those skills in an advisory capacity to support clients.  If you weren’t a Chartered Accountant, what do you think you’d be doing?  Realistically, an engineer. Unrealistically, a professional pastry chef.   What advice do you have for those who will soon qualify as Chartered Accountants?  It can all seem daunting balancing work and exams but being qualified is a game-changer. Once you are a qualified accountant, it opens up a lot of doors to different opportunities whether that is to move into a different area or go work in industry. What's your favourite... Book: Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton Favourite meal: Pizza  Favourite quote: “Opportunities don’t happen, you create them.” Favourite hobby: Hiking or weightlifting (when the gyms are open!)

Mar 01, 2021
Sustainability

The drive towards new sustainable habits and behaviours within organisations might be a big task, but it can and should start at an individual level. In keeping up with the general developments within the accounting realm, I feel the area of sustainability and accounting is already becoming saturated with thought leadership on governance, regulations and compliance regarding climate change, the UN sustainability development goals, and even various reports on market share loses against greener competitors. While well-intentioned, these articles don’t necessarily motivate intrinsic change and, instead, turns something that should be a priority into another tick box exercise. Rather than focusing on how accountants can use their analytical and communications skills to show the falling cost of renewables, I feel that is passing the baton. I want to focus on what sustainability means to me:  accountability, one of the core values of Chartered Accountants Ireland, and responsibility, a core element of our day-to-day lives as accountants. One of the main concerns that stood out in reviewing past Institute reports regarding sustainability was the concern that the topic is so large, it’s hard to know where to begin. Clearly, we need a behavioural and attitude shift to realise that yes, the topic is huge and all-encompassing, with most parts of our lives adding to our carbon footprint. However, the fact that the topic touches on all aspects of our lives should make it easier to change behaviours and find ways to make our lives that little bit greener.  While the cost of renewables is dramatically falling, our foundations regarding climate change in Ireland are still weak and we need to hold ourselves accountable before paying for the rise of renewables. Getting the basics right should be a priority. We need to hold ourselves accountable individually to build greener habits into our lives, including simple tasks like recycling, watching our food waste, choosing reusables and avoiding driving when unnecessary. Recent reports state our rate of recycling (ROR) has dramatically fallen from 74% in 2015 to 62% in 2020. By ‘auditing’ our own lives, we can make a profound difference. By choosing to cycle or walk to the shops daily for groceries can save over 265kg of carbon emissions per annum, based on a 5km round trip journey via car. The benefits of shopping every day is shown to greatly reduce food waste, another major source of emissions. Even each email we send contributes to roughly 50g of carbon emissions. Assuming the average firm has 100 employees sending 50 emails per day, you get the equivalent of 250kg of carbon emissions per day – similar to the same emissions of flying a round trip to London! While reducing our email activity is extreme (and probably not recommended by your employer!), it’s easy to see how you can make a little change to have a big impact. As Peter Drucker once said, “What gets measured, gets managed” so as accountable and responsible Chartered Accountants who love KPIs, cost savings and efficiencies, let’s start auditing our individual impact before we start worrying about anything else. If we can’t hold ourselves accountable, how can we expect large multinationals to change? Similar to how we approach the ACA exams, you can start your own sustainability journey: start small, plan ahead, don’t panic and keep moving forward while taking pride in your progress.  I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the future, CFOs will report to Chief Sustainable Officers. These two roles can work together to achieve cost savings while also promoting and supporting sustainable travel, heating, electricity, etc., which reduces our organisations’ carbon footprints.  Needless to say, the future of the accounting profession will most certainly be shaped by sustainability. It shouldn’t be seen solely as a business goal, but more of a guiding principle. As the old focus for businesses was ‘survival of the fittest’; the new norm could potentially be ‘survival of the most sustainable’. Cathal O’Reilly is the Founder of Narcissips, which highlights the benefits that reusables have for our health, the environment and, as a stereotypical accountant, our pockets. 

Mar 01, 2021
Sustainability

  In this week’s Public Policy news, read about: Ireland’s upcoming Local Enterprise Week and extensions to expiry dates of driving licences; Labour Market Statistics in Northern Ireland and extension of free access to the SME skills programme; and the publication of the EU Commission’s 'open, sustainable and assertive' trade policy. ‘Making it Happen’ – Local Enterprise Week, March 1 - 5 The full programme of events for the 2021 Local Enterprise Week has been launched by An Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar TD. More than 200 virtual events are planned between 1 March and 5 March under the theme ‘Making it Happen’. Events include training workshops, information webinars and masterclasses on topics from starting a new business, resilience and recovery, the green economy, and the new trading relationship with the UK. For the first time, Local Enterprise Week will also include ‘Spotlight’ events, open to every business across the country. The first spotlight event is Benefits of Green for your Business –Launching Green for Micro and will focuses on how to make business practices more sustainable and what new supports are now available. More details for Local Enterprise Week are available here. Further extensions to driving licence expiry dates This week Ireland’s Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton, TD, published details of a further extension to the expiry dates of driving licences in Ireland. The move comes as the EU and national Governments take steps in response to the disruption caused by COVID-19 to driver-licensing services across the EU. The extension will apply to different groups of licence holders, including those who benefited from extensions in 2020. Details of the changes, as well as further information on extension of driving licences, can be found on the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) website www.ndls.ie or the Road Safety Authority (RSA) website www.rsa.ie Northern Ireland labour market statistics published  Labour market statistics published by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) reveal that the number of proposed collective redundancies (10,640) in the 12 months to the end of January was more than double the number in the previous 12 months; the 190 confirmed redundancies in January take the overall figure to 5150, the highest since 2004. Employment levels remain below pre-COVID-19 levels, while measures of unemployment remain above these levels, with HMRC payroll data showing that while the number of paid employees increased in December and January, the number of employees in January remains 1.1 percent below the March 2020 total. SMEs in Northern Ireland access to free training extended to March 2022 Northern Ireland’s Economy Minister Diane Dodds this week announced that the Skills Focus scheme – the scheme enabling small and medium enterprises SMEs, including social enterprises, to upskill and reskill staff – will remain free for businesses until the end of March 2022. The Skills Focus scheme provides businesses with access to tailored teaching in accredited and industry-standard qualifications in a range of areas and levels from further education colleges. Businesses usually pay 25 percent of this costs for the scheme, but in May 2020 this requirement was waived until 31 March 2021. The second extension of this waiver is to further support businesses through the pandemic. EU Commission sets ‘open, sustainable and assertive’ trade policy The European Commission has put sustainability at the heart of its new trade strategy, which  focuses on delivering stronger global trading rules and contributing to the EU’s economic recovery. The strategy is informed more than 400 submissions in a public consultation, and close engagement with the European Parliament, EU governments, businesses, civil society and the public. The new strategy aims to support the EU’s transformation to a climate-neutral economy, through strengthening trade’s capacity to support the digital and climate transitions, and, where necessary, to take a more assertive stance in defending its interests and values. Speaking about the new strategy, Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade, Valdis Dombrovskis, said: “The challenges we face require a new strategy for EU trade policy. We need open, rules-based trade to help restore growth and job creation post-COVID-19. Equally, trade policy must fully support the green and digital transformations of our economy and lead global efforts to reform the WTO. It should also give us the tools to defend ourselves when we face unfair trade practices. We are pursuing a course that is open, strategic and assertive, emphasising the EU's ability to make its own choices and shape the world around it through leadership and engagement, reflecting our strategic interests and values.”   Read all our updates on our Public Policy web centre

Feb 26, 2021
Sustainability

Are you looking to make a major investment in energy efficiency in 2021? SEAI have announced that it is offering up to €1million in grant support per project.  The EXEED Grant is now open for 2021 with Government funding of €14 million available for businesses. The grant is suitable for organisations who are planning an energy investment project and are willing to follow the EXEED Certified standard for Excellence in Energy Efficient Design. Recent recipients of SEAI EXEED support include: Aurivo Consumer Foods in Donegal who got SEAI EXEED certification following the installation of a heat recovery system for their milk pasteurisation process which reduced CO2 emissions by 85%. Johnson & Johnson Vision Care in Co. Limerick, who achieved SEAI EXEED certification for a new gym and medical building, where improved insulation and air handling units with heat recovery were installed, making the facility 25% more efficient. To express your interest and have a member of the SEAI team contact you, please complete this short questionnaire. For all other queries email EXEED@seai.ie 

Feb 22, 2021
Public Policy

  As influential members of every sector of the economy, professional accountants are uniquely positioned to help effect meaningful and positive change in a collective effort. To do so they require training and support to apply their skills to the challenge. Chartered Accountants Ireland is committed to providing our members with this support.   Sustainability is of global concern and relevance to us all, and businesses are vital to it. Following the shocks of the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are being called on to transform themselves, to rebuild, rebuilding a socially just, low-carbon and climate resilient economy and society. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) can provide a framework for businesses in this, but the business transformation required to achieve these goals goes beyond incremental improvements and adjustments to ‘business-as-usual’. The changes in 2021 and beyond will be dramatic, not just to the operations of business but across their value chains. In 2020, Chartered Accountants Ireland began the process of embedding sustainability throughout our activities. Advised by an Expert Working Group on Sustainability, we created a programme of work, held virtual events on sustainability topics and launched an online Sustainability Hub providing information, guidance and supports to help members understand sustainability and meet the challenges it presents. We also published a short guide Sustainability for Accountants. This guide details the risks and opportunities presented by sustainability, and the steps that need to be taken to address the challenges. It also shares best practice examples and describes how organisations can transition to operating sustainably, successfully and cost-effectively. You can read more about our 2020 activities here. In 2021 we will be keeping pace with the urgency of this ‘decade to deliver’. We will be building on our sustainability activities and beginning our path to a positive climate and environment impact. We are currently working on a carbon plan for our Dublin office, and reviewing our carbon footprint. We are increasing our public policy activities and members events and have begun a series of ‘explainers’ articles in our weekly eNews on topics identified as being important focal points for members in 2021, including decarbonisation, the circular economy and biodiversity and what they mean for accountants. The topic of decarbonisation will first be addressed in a District Society event in March, and sustainability is the leading topic of the Institute's Annual Governance Conference in April. Working with the Expert Working Group on Sustainability of the Global Accounting Alliance (GAA), and in association with the Accounting Bodies Network of A4S (Accounting for Sustainability),we will be contributing to the UN Biodiversity Conference in May (‘COP 15’) and the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (‘COP 26’). We are also delighted to be working as part of the One Young World and Chartered Accountants Worldwide (CAW) initiative, FinBiz 2030 in their goals to engage financial and business professionals to achieve the UN SDGs. Significantly, this year will see an Institute-wide ‘Sustainability Week’ from June 14-18. During this week we will launch Chartered Accountants Ireland’s own roadmap towards carbon neutrality, as well as publishing guides for members on the application to their businesses of topics such as the circular economy and biodiversity. We are running the first Chartered Accountants Ireland Sustainability Conference that week (June 16), and will bring together speakers on topics from sustainability reporting, sustainability finance and governance, as well as provide practical advice on decarbonisation programmes. Follow our activities in the Sustainability Centre on our website to find information on our Expert Working Group on Sustainability, our events, resources, and sustainability related news. For all queries please contact Public Policy Officer Susan Rossney at susan.rossney@charteredaccountants.ie

Feb 19, 2021