Can accountants drive sustainability improvements in the SME space? 

Can accountants drive sustainability improvements in the SME space? 

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) has launched a new playbook to help accountancy professionals support their SME clients in reaching their sustainability goals.  


Following COP26, there has been a great deal of attention on what larger organisations can do to improve sustainability. Quite rightly, as multinational corporations contribute a considerable amount to global emissions.  


But the ACCA points out that around 90% of the world’s businesses are SMEs, so addressing sustainability here is just as critical. To that end, the association has released a guidebook of practice steps to help SMEs and their accountancy partners build sustainability into core business practices. According to the guidebook:  


“Accountants are best-placed to advise SMEs on the path to sustainability because of their trusted connections, skills and insights.” 


What’s in the playbook?  


Titled ‘How SMEs can create a more sustainable world’, the guidance draws on insights from businesses, professional accountants and global business leaders. As well as SMEs and SMPs, the playbook also includes input from larger organisations who work with them. For example, Sage, Intuit, Xero and WE Accounting.  


The playbook sets out practical guidance for accountants who work as trusted advisors to SMEs,

including the following: 


  • Raising awareness and ambition about sustainability 
  • Analysing business models – and advising how to transform organisational practices,  
  • Reporting on progress towards sustainability goals - using the wide range of financial and non-financial data captured by accountants 
  • Facilitating networking and information sharing on sustainability issues between local businesses and industry organisations 
  • Simplifying carbon reporting and climate risk management  
  • Accessing government grants and incentives. 


Building sustainability and Covid recovery go hand-in-hand 


The ACCA’s head of SME professional insights Aleksandra Zaronina-Kirillova explained how the playbook can help to turn collective SME action into major environmental change. She said: 


“COP26 was a couple of weeks ago and what is clear is business as usual is no longer an option. We face a climate emergency. Sustainability is an urgent, global project.  


“The collective impact of billions of actions at a local and organisational scale will make a huge difference.” 


Meanwhile, the ACCA’s chief executive Helen Brand highlights how sustainability can be a vital part of ‘building back better’ after the Covid-19 pandemic – but only if businesses are supported, rather than burdened with red tape. She said: 


“Governments, having adopted ambitious sustainable development goals for the end of this decade, are ramping up regulation to encourage and enforce ‘green action’.  Many of these businesses are on the edge of survival and these measures should not be a burden on SMEs already impacted by the pandemic. Therefore, it’s very important to align recovery packages with sustainability incentives.  


“This playbook is essential in supporting SMEs with their sustainable transformations and reporting on these achievements.” 


If you’re looking for a new accountancy challenge, perhaps in a new sustainability-focused role, Castlefield Recruitment can help. We’re also the perfect recruitment partner to connect your business with accountancy professionals that can kickstart or support your sustainability initiatives. Get in touch to find out more.