The Role of Accountants in Combating Climate Change

September 27, 2021

Climate change is accelerating and, soon, nearly every corner of the planet will be affected by the effects of global warming. Not only are we on a path to irreversible environmental damage, but climate change has the potential to threaten economies due to freak weather and disease outbreaks.


However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Although the climate crisis can be anxiety-inducing, it’s not too late to take action. In a report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, scientists highlighted that even incremental reductions in emissions today would stave off more catastrophic events in the future.


Everyone must do their bit to help combat climate change — including accountants. Continue reading to learn how you can promote sustainability in your accounting firm and contribute to a ‘greener’ future.

Promoting Sustainability in Your Accounting Firm

When thinking about saving the planet, it can be easy to let the enormity of the problem overshadow your attempts at fixing it. This can demotivate teams and prevent them from making meaningful changes in the way they work.


But, we don’t need to save the whole planet all at once. There are small steps you can take in your firm right now that will contribute towards a more sustainable future for everyone:


Reduce Paper Waste

In an age when everything can be digitised, paper seems like an unnecessary — and quite significant — waste of resources. In fact, paper waste accounts for around 26% of total waste at landfills, and paper production causes deforestation and uses huge amounts of water and electricity.


Becoming a paperless business is a great way of promoting sustainability in your accounting firm. To do so, you can:

  • Switch out paper diaries/notebooks for digital ones
  • Share documents and collaborate electronically via tools like Google Docs or Microsoft 365
  • Switch to electronic invoicing and paperless bank statements
  • Use electronic forms for onboarding new clients
  • Use online tools like DocuSign to sign documents electronically
  • Implement a recycling plan


Become More Energy-efficient

The emission of greenhouse gases from using natural resources is a significant factor contributing to global warming. In the office, you use natural resources every day through lighting and heating. Large corporations are already taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint. For example, Google has compensated for all of the carbon it has ever created by investing in wind farms and solar energy.


However, not every business needs to take such a drastic step — or make such a huge investment. To become a more sustainable accounting firm, you can start by:

  • Switching to energy-efficient LEDs
  • Using a lighting sensor system
  • Turning off all electronics at the end of the day
  • Installing a smart thermostat

Promote Flexible Working

Transport is the biggest source of carbon emissions in the UK and commuting accounts for 25% of these. Although the pandemic brought devastation, it also promoted remote working as swathes of companies switched to conference calls instead of in-person meetings.


Continuing this trend and allowing your employees to work from home (even a few days a week) can massively reduce your carbon footprint by getting more cars off the road — particularly if your employees don’t live near the office. 


If your firm isn’t in a position to offer remote working, consider setting up a carpool or ‘bike-to-work’ scheme instead. Even the smallest changes can make a huge difference.

How to Influence Clients to Adopt Greener Practices

Accountants are in a unique position to not only make changes within their own firms but to be an influential force on their clients’ businesses:

Put a Price on Sustainable Practices

Environmental sustainability is intrinsically linked to economic sustainability — which is exactly what CPAs need to convey to their clients to drive positive changes in their organisations and reduce carbon emissions.


By incorporating value into environmentally friendly practices and highlighting the cost-saving benefits of green measures, accountants can influence business leaders to adopt carbon-smart policies.


CPAs must also identify ways to reward sustainable policies to ensure companies gain from environmentally friendly practices and continue on the path to sustainability. For instance, they can help clients apply for grants or subsidies to help make a greener way of working possible. 


Inform Smarter Decisions

Over the past few years, an accountant’s role has evolved to that of a trusted advisor for clients. They are no longer considered number crunchers working quietly in the background but a partner in weathering financial storms and adapting to change.


Now, faced with an impending climate crisis, accountants are expected to play a significant role in sharing knowledge about sustainable development and the importance of adopting a greener way of doing business. This is particularly true for SME clients, who may not have the resources to access this kind of information. 


For example, CPAs can develop a credible standard of sustainability reporting by establishing performance metrics and auditing systems, setting budgets and drawing up strategic plans. Armed with this information, organisations will be in a stronger position to mitigate the financial risks of climate change by making smarter — and greener — business decisions.

Combat Climate Change with Support from INAA

Here at INAA, we connect accounting firms who aim to deliver quality professional services around a shared vision to make global business personal, and take personal business global. 


With every industry change, our collaborative association of international businesses is committed to being a part of the conversation around auditing and accounting.


Join today to start building powerful business relationships.