The young CFO

The role of financial professionals goes beyond activities that affect the profit of the organisation they work for, but the role requires one’s activities to positively impact the world they live in, and leave it in a better state than before

A survey was conducted by ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) in a report entitled Sustainability and Business: The Next Ten Years, where 4 500 ACCA students were interviewed. This survey was done to get the students’ opinions, as future financial professionals, on how the macro global sustainability trends will affect business and the impact of these pressures on the role of a financial professional.

The report, created from the survey, focuses on three main factors: the instability of financial markets; the deterioration of natural resources and the global population explosion.

The findings of this report varied from continent to continent, but they all lead to one conclusion. A percentage of 81% of the students believe that the deterioration in natural resources would have the most impact on business in 2024. While in South Africa, 70% of students believe that the growth in global population would have the most impact in business. A further 67% of respondents in the Caribbean and Africa believe that the instability in financial markets would leave its effects in business operating there.

“The macro global trends are a major factor in a financial professional’s role”, Karen Smal, Acting Head of ACCA South Africa.

“It is only natural that the accountant should be most qualified to quantify the costs of environmental negligence and sustainability, and report these to other officers”, said one ACCA Student during the survey.

The ACCA report seeks to see what professionals believe the business world will be like in 2024. It checks our current patterns to better prepare us for tomorrow. The question is, do financial professionals care what tomorrow looks like? And if they do, are they prepared to do what is needed in order to make sure the future is brighter than today?

Looking at the past decade, Sarah Nolleth, the Director of A4S had this to say, “Significant progress has been made to develop practical approaches that integrate sustainability into financial decision-making, reflecting the interdependency between financial, economic, social and environmental outcomes”, but as much as progress is visible, she was careful to urge young accounting professionals and veterans to prepare themselves for the approaching changes saying, “However, we will all see the consequences of global environmental constraints, especially the accountancy students who are at the beginning of their financial careers. It is this cohort who we need to encourage to adopt accounting for sustainability throughout their careers”.

Financial professionals need to realise that this approach is of utmost importance, and as Ewan Williams, Director of Policy at ACCA puts it, “it is positive that many more believe that sustainability issues will become more central to their area of work. The ACCA finance professionals of the future see the next 10 years as being one of change – they know that as finance professionals they will have to do more to provide businesses with decision-making insight than now – such as forecasting and reporting on what might happen in the future, rather than recording what has happened. But they are attuned to this need and that bodes well for the future”.

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