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Professional Accountants: Now is the Time to Embrace our Role as Agents of Change

Francisco Sant'Anna, Independent Auditor and Chairman of the Board of Directors, IBRACON  | 

Professional accountants have always needed to have a deep knowledge of existing professional and ethical standards and regulatory frameworks, as well as regularly updating and developing their skillset to meet the dynamic changes of the market and transformations worldwide.

The need is now perhaps even greater in the present environment of complex transactions and new technologies. A more comprehensive view of business, covering not only accounting issues, but also measures and information on environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) matters is in high demand.

In this context, it is worth highlighting the development of an International Sustainability Standards Board, under the coordination of the IFRS Foundation, with the support of IFAC and other global institutions. This will ensure that there is a worldwide standard of excellence in corporate reporting, based on experiences with existing models, and should improve the quality of the information in this field significantly.

The demands for non-financial information are growing, because currently, in the view of investors and corporate report users, the information contained within corporate reports is no longer enough to demonstrate that a company is profitable if it does not also have a positive impact concerning its people, the community, and the environment. Further, many businesses’ values and missions are linked to non-financial issues, such as social and climate commitments. These are additional, sensitive factors in understanding and accepting how an entity's values are created and maintained.

Therefore, the quality of information provided to various users of corporate reports is critical to support capital market efficiency. As a result, today's investors and other users of corporate statements demand increasingly reliable and comparable ESG information. In turn, the progression and global standardization of accounting information in this area will only increase the relevance and contribution of professional accountants. 

This is why, we, professional accountants and auditors, should support the IFRS Foundation in its objective of establishing an International Sustainability Standards Board. We are already an essential part of financial market — providing unbiased opinions on the reliability of companies’ disclosures. It is natural that our participation extends more emphatically in the highest public and private decision-making powers — in the federal, state, and municipal executive and legislative powers and in the companies’ boards of directors. The specialized knowledge and performance of professional accountants guided by professional skepticism provides a significant return to society, considering that our work is intended to serve the public interest.

There is room for more proactive professional accountants in the decision-making world. However, such progress will only be possible when we embrace our responsibility to be ambitious and forward-looking. In this sense, it is up to us to seek these positions.

Now is not the time to resign ourselves to acting as traditional number-crunching accountants but to understand our responsibility as agents of change and step into new opportunities that will make a difference. The world is undergoing profound changes and challenges. We must increasingly participate in more diverse conversations and with other professionals to advance these changes and seize opportunities before us. Onward!