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Accountants could be the ‘sustainability trailblazers’ needed to drive the green agenda in the SME space


24 Nov 2021


Sustainable Dev.

COP26 may have focused on big business, but 90% are small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), which is why ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and CA ANZ (Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand) are equipping accountants with a new playbook to help them and their SME clients achieve their sustainability goals.

How SMEs can create a more sustainable world details the benefits that sustainable actions have for both business success and the environment.  The playbook sets out practical steps for embedding sustainable practices within SMEs, case studies from across the world, and links to a variety of tools and resources.

Given SMEs represent about 90% of businesses of the global economy, improvements in their sustainability practices are vital to addressing our global environmental and social challenges.

The playbook contains guidance from over 30 businesses, both from SMEs, SMPs (small and medium sized practices) and bigger businesses who work close with them including The Balcony Garden, Sage, Taylors Wines, Intuit, Xero, WE Accounting, as well as professional accountants and business leaders from around the world.

The playbook outlines how the following can make a difference:

·       Reshaping business models and reimagining the future: Explaining what sustainable development is, setting out the business case for sustainability, and illustrating the role of the profession.

·       Acting with urgency on climate change in particular: Guidance on how to have the conversation about climate change, illustrating the need for urgent action, and explaining what is happening globally.

·       Considering sustainability in business operations and every decision made: Demonstrating different ways action can be taken to address challenges such as reducing emission levels (including how to set targets and measure emissions), waste, and inequality.

·       Adopting sustainability goals: Explaining science-based targets, the Paris Agreement, the United Nation’s SDGs, and create ambitious strategies for sustainable future growth.

·       Bringing integrity to the process: How to ensure integrity in the transformation to sustainability by taking a principles-based approach.

Aleksandra Zaronina-Kirillova, ACCA head of SME, professional insights, says:

‘We are really pleased to launch this playbook during such a critical time in the climate change agenda. 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.’

Karen McWilliams FCA, CA ANZ business reform leader, says:

‘COP 26 earlier this month heightened the world’s focus not just on addressing climate change but broader environmental issues including water and nature. In particular, there was significant focus on the role of non-state actors, such as business in tackling these challenges, particularly the establishment of the International Sustainability Standards Board, was a crucial step towards much needed harmonisation of sustainability reporting standards and it’s a sign that global developments are starting to pick up pace. 

‘This playbook has been designed to help SMEs and SMPs navigate what this means for them. It gives them the resources and tools that they need to take action. Addressing sustainability challenges requires everyone, and this playbook has been designed to support that collective action.’

Helen Brand, ACCA’s chief executive, says:

‘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.’

Ainslie van Onselen, CA ANZ chief executive officer, says:

‘SMEs and SMPs represent the majority of the economy – particularly in New Zealand and Australia – and together, they can have a significant influence on the business world’s approach to sustainable development. Getting started can be a challenge so this playbook is designed to equip both SMEs and SMPs as they navigate what sustainable development means for them.

‘As the playbook sets out, we encourage our members and all accountants to adopt a 6 point plan to 1) improve their sustainability understanding, 2) gather resources and start having a conversation with others, 3) consider what sustainable development means for every decision they make, 4) measure non-financial performance and encourage clients to do so, 5) engage with other sustainability professionals and 6) share their insights and experiences widely and often. Sustainable practices are crucial for future resilience, and businesses embedding them are finding more opportunities for overall success and profitability.’

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For media enquiries, contact:

Chanel Townsend


M: +44 (0)7834 173 867

Twitter: @ACCANews

Daniel Webster


M: +64 27 282 6283
Twitter: @Chartered_Accts

About ACCA

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global professional body for professional accountants.

We’re a thriving global community of 233,000 members and 536,000 future members based in 178countries and regions, who work across a wide range of sectors and industries. We uphold the highest professional and ethical values.

We offer everyone everywhere the opportunity to experience a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. Our qualifications and learning opportunities develop strategic business leaders, forward-thinking professionals with the financial, business and digital expertise essential for the creation of sustainable organisations and flourishing societies.

Since 1904, being a force for public good has been embedded in our purpose. In December 2020, we made commitments to the UN Sustainable Development Goals which we are measuring and will report on in our annual integrated report.

We believe that accountancy is a cornerstone profession of society and is vital helping economies, organisations and individuals to grow and prosper. It does this by creating robust trusted financial and business management, combating corruption, ensuring organisations are managed ethically, driving sustainability, and providing rewarding career opportunities.

And through our cutting-edge research, we lead the profession by answering today’s questions and preparing for the future. We’re a not-for-profit organisation. Find out more at

About CA ANZ

Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) represents 131,673 financial professionals, supporting them to make a difference to the businesses, organisations and communities in which they work and live. Chartered Accountants are known as Difference Makers. The depth and breadth of their expertise helps them to see the big picture and chart the best course of action. Find out more:

CA ANZ promotes the Chartered Accountant (CA) designation and high ethical standards, delivers world-class services and life-long education to members and advocates for the public good. We protect the reputation of the designation by ensuring members continue to comply with a code of ethics, backed by a robust discipline process. We also monitor Chartered Accountants who offer services directly to the public.


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