The Association of Chartered Certified
Accountants (ACCA) is in the midst of producing of five papers to
brief members on how core accounting disciplines relate to

Papers have been published on reporting
and economic instruments. One on assurance is in its final draft,
while two in the pipeline cover governance and accounting.

ACCA head of social and environmental issues
Rachel Jackson said the emergence of sustainability issues within
core business practice is a significant development for accountants
and the briefing papers will help outline the implications.

KPMG and AccountAbility are collaborating in
the project.

“We felt the balance of each of those
contributors added value to the project,” Jackson said. “One is a
more traditional accounting, financial services-type firm within
the sphere of the accounting profession. And then we have
AccountAbility, a [non-government organisation] think tank, creator
of assurance standards and so on.

“The two are extremes but both have similar
views in some areas.”

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Jackson said there are a significant number of
Big Four employees working in the sustainability field.

“I am sure that if we were to collate all the
numbers of staff you would get to an encouraging and surprisingly
high number,” she said.

“There is a raft of legislation out there,
which is only set to grow. You have all sorts of emissions trading
schemes coming onto the market in different countries and all of
those will need accountants to help implement, measure, report,
verify and so on. It is new business and big business.”

One example of new legislation is the UK’s
Climate Change Bill that was passed in November 2008.

The UK government is also launching a carbon
reduction commitment next year that will affect about 5,000
organisations that do not fall under the EU emissions trading

“That is a whole new sphere of measuring,
analysing the footprint, reducing, trading, buying, accounting
for,” Jackson said.

“All of these organisations kept thinking
perhaps none of this has applied to them so far, or it is not
relevant to them. Suddenly you have hospitals, you have schools,
you have local authorities, you have government bodies and
organisations that have slipped through the net suddenly have to
now start doing this by law.

“Australia and New Zealand also have schemes
in the pipeline, Japan has hinted at it. And goodness knows what
sort of encouraging stuff is going to come out of America under the
new administration. It is certainly all very positive so far.”

As part of its sustainability activities, the
ACCA is also publishing a paper summarising the sustainability
elements of its qualification.

The main purpose of this is to show existing
members what the syllabus would be like if they studied the
qualification today.

Other projects include a Carbon Jigsaw that
looks at six key elements of carbon and climate change.

“This is primarily aimed at members who are
bombarded with all this climate change information and they just
need it all succinct – a comprehensive overview with lots of
references if they want to know further,” Jackson said.

The ACCA is also building a climate change
micro site and will be preparing a second set of briefing papers,
on carbon, towards the end of this year, then a Water Jigsaw.

“We feel there is a lot of work being done out
there on water accounting and water foot-printing, which we again
think is impacting on businesses over time and therefore will
impact on accountants over time,” Jackson said.

“So we want to research the area and come out
with something on water to inform our members and students.”