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How’s your footprint?

Carbon footprint
As global leaders hold climate talks, Praxity member firms are taking steps to reduce carbon emissions and help clients do the right thing

By Ian Lavis on behalf of Praxity Global Alliance

We face a “mounting climate crisis that has far-reaching consequences for a liveable future”, according to the United Nations.

The stark warning was made on the eve of its Cop26 global summit in Glasgow from October 31 to November 11 in which world leaders try to agree on a way forward to address climate change.

Scientists say we have reached “code red” for the world. The UN is calling for “bold, large-scale and rapid actions by national leaders for people and the planet”. The priority, it says, is to “keep global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius through rapid, bold emissions cuts and net-zero commitments.

While the world holds its breath for leaders to agree on global action, individuals, businesses and communities are taking steps at local level to lessen the potential impact of climate change on the environment.


Leading on carbon reduction

Independent accounting firms within Praxity Global Alliance are leading by example with practical measures to reduce carbon footprint inside their own firms.

One of the consequences of the Covid-19-related shift in work patterns is that firms have significantly cut carbon emissions as a result of less commuting to central offices.

Further reductions are being made from environmental policies aimed specifically at reducing emissions and by setting – and meeting – carbon footprint targets.

Moss Adams in the US has set specific goals and policies related to the percentage of recycled materials and the total amount of supplies used in its offices, the amount of water withdrawn, and the direct and indirect energy consumed by employees. The firm also encourages the use of alternative transportation and the implementation technological solutions to help reduce our carbon footprint.

ShineWing International - the global network of accounting firms – has organised a tree-planting campaign in Beijing for carbon reduction, while Mazars UK has appointed Green Champions in each office dedicated to making its vision of becoming carbon neutral a reality. Mazars UK’s Consulting team has created a series of dashboards to analyse data on printing and travel with the aim of changing processes. The firm aims to be plastic free in London and is recycling and repurposing plastics and coffee beans in Manchester. Nationwide, it is looking to improve uptake of electric vehicles while also offsetting carbon emissions of its car scheme provider.

More and more Praxity member firms are showing their commitment. Albert Goodman has made the bold decision to commit to becoming genuinely net zero by 2030 by signing up to the #RaceToZero through the ICAEW 1000 Accountant’s and COP26 small and medium sized business pledges.

Helping clients reduce emissions

As well as reducing their own carbon footprint, Praxity member firms are helping clients do the right thing in terms of carbon reduction, climate-related disclosure and governance.

Mazars UK employs carbon footprint analysts accredited with the Institute of Environmental, Management and Assessment (IEMA) to help companies calculate their carbon footprint and identify opportunities to reduce and offset their impact on the environment.

Similarly, ShineWing International provides guidance in carbon audit and reporting, onsite assessment, data emissions, and third-party verification. ShineWing firms also monitor and report clients’ carbon emissions according to different local and international standards and regulations.


Better climate-related reporting

Praxity member firms worldwide are helping businesses understand and respond to increasingly complex rules and recommendations on climate disclosure. These rules vary significantly in different jurisdictions.

Dirk Cockrum, Managing Director of ESG (environmental, social and governance) at US firm BKD, says climate-related financial reporting “can be challenging to understand and implement”. In an article published by BKD in September 2021, he says: “As the key to real estate is location, location, location, the key to managing climate-related risks and opportunities is governance, governance, governance.”

He adds: “An essential early step is developing an understanding of what potential climate-related risks and opportunities there are for your business.” These risks can be transition-based, such as increased regulatory costs in the oil industry, or physical, such as increased severity of weather events.

BKD and other member firms are urging clients to taking action now, pointing out there are substantial benefits to be had. “The thinking, discussions, and analysis that go with climate financial reporting can – if approached in the right way – lead to improvements in governance, strategic thinking, risk management, and operation,” Dirk adds.

Approaching reporting in the right way is the subject of a talk by Praxity CEO Samantha Louis at the 11th Digital Accountancy Forum 2021 conference in London on 4 November. Entitled Profitably purposeful – reporting on sustainability and ESG, the presentation forms part of a wider discussion on the biggest opportunities and threats facing the industry.


Better ESG management

Firms within the Alliance are also stepping up support by helping clients develop and manage ESG programmes with greater focus on carbon emissions to help companies navigate a clear path to more responsible operations.

Support includes:

  • identifying risks and opportunities
  • designing an ESG report
  • implementing a messaging and communication plan
  • measuring and refining the messaging and communication plan

Canadian firm MNP says that while ESG issues are not yet a top priority for many boards of directors, they soon will be.

Whether global leaders at Cop26 agree – and more importantly fulfil – bold new action on climate change remains to be seen. Either way, the role of accounting firms in reducing carbon footprint and emissions is likely to accelerate as pressure mounts on companies to demonstrate they are taking climate seriously. And this can only be a good thing for the planet.