Accountants Are Going to Save the World
by Berry Wammes, Executive Director, Royal Nederlandse Beroepsorganisatie van Accountants | November 15, 2016 | 1
During a storm in the Pacific Ocean in 1992, a sea container with 28,800 rubber ducks fell overboard from ship travelling from China to the US. The toys were carried by winds and ocean currents, and eventually washed up on shores in North America and Asia. Some of the rubber ducks drifted into the Bering Sea and froze into the polar ice. Over ten years later, one of these ducks washed up on the Dutch coast. It appears the duck was able to belatedly continue its journey due to melting ice in the polar region. As a result, the toy became a plastic symbol for climate change.
This story was told during last month's Netherlands Spring Tide Forum. The forum claims to be a guiding light toward a green future and, for many years, has been attended by a wide range of entrepreneurs, environmental activists, scientists, politicians, and an increasing number of bankers and investors. This is because sustainable financing has become more than a niche market, and the green and blue sectors in our society are becoming increasingly interwoven.
It was also pleasing to see how accountants and their representatives were warmly welcomed to this year's edition—something you won't always encounter elsewhere. Quite a few people shared the view that "accountants are going to save the world," as claimed by Peter Bakker from the World Business Forum for Sustainable Development. Why? Because, as entrepreneurs and investors stated, even though the world is awash with money, with around 2300 billion EUR available for investment in the Netherlands alone, too little of it actually gets invested.
Sustainability is an increasingly important criterion, but many investment opportunities appear to conceal a lot of risks on this front, for instance, when it comes to stranded assets, i.e., fossil reserves that can suddenly decrease in value, or circular business models and the accompanying long-term obligations and risks. Banks and pension funds are hesitant and governments remain reticent, despite ambitious objectives for the energy transition. In this case, a lack of knowledge and insight into actual risks is an important factor. So there are reasons enough for protectors of the environment and financiers to welcome accountants with open arms.
And also reasons enough for the accounting profession to step up our efforts in developing integrated reporting and integrated audits, and testing the robustness of accounting and auditing standards in new business models. The aim is to gain an insight into actual risks on the balance sheet. A new type of economy is being formed, where accountants have another opportunity to demonstrate their relevance. And this is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss.
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