Last Wednesday, CIMA's CEO, Charles Tilley and I found ourselves at St James's Palace State Apartments to hear HRH The Prince of Wales and the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne speak about the role of business and government in preventing ‘the greatest accounting failure the world has ever seen’. We were joined by 200 representatives from the international accounting and business communities, investors, government, academia and civil society.
HRH's speech referred to Lord Stern and his seminal report that climate change is a result of the “greatest market failure the world has seen” and the markets’ failure to value and price ecosystem services and natural capital. HRH went on to say that ‘if governments, businesses, the accountancy profession, regulators and standard-setters do not address the present limitations in our accounting information and reports, then it will be the greatest accounting failure the world has ever seen.’
The fifth annual gathering of The Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability (A4S) Forum highlighted the still urgent need for businesses to put a value on, and better account, for the social and environmental impacts of their activities.
Speeches were followed by Stephanie Flanders, Economics Editor of the BBC, hosting a business panel of Sainsbury's chief executive Justin King, Special Adviser to the IMF Min Zhu and Jonathon Porritt from Forum for the Future who debated the barriers to business putting a value to the resources.
The importance of accounting for sustainability was brought to life by a short film starring Sir Richard Branson and Dragon’s Den stars Theo Paphitis and Deborah Meaden. For non-UK viewers, Dragon's Den is a TV programme where would-be entrepreneurs propose business ideas with a view to winning finance from the 'dragons'.
The Chancellor said he wanted Britain to be a leader of the new green global economy…
"We can make a difference. We are making a difference - in politics, in business and in the voluntary sector.
"It does fall to our generation because we have been given the foresight about the problems that are in store for us."
The Chancellor welcomed the development of the ‘International Integrated Reporting Committee’ (IIRC) which has been established by The Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project and others ‘to help integrate sustainability, social and corporate governance impacts into companies’ annual reports’.
Here at CIMA, we recognise only too well that we can promote the importance of sustainability issues, but we need to think hard about how we translate them into practical tools that you can use.
And on that note, I will sign off for 2010. I wish you all the best for the season and I am looking forward to continuing the dialogue in 2011!