The International Federation of
Accountants (IFAC) has produced a framework designed to give
holistic, introductory-level coverage of the sustainability issues
facing the accounting profession. The framework was developed by
the federation’s Professional Accountants in Business Committee
(PAIB).

It is designed from four different
perspectives – business strategy, internal management, financial
investors, and other stakeholders – and is intended to challenge
conventional ways of thinking about economic, social and
environmental issues.

Roger Adams led the PAIB sustainability
framework project team. He told The Accountant that
although there is a lot of guidance around on sustainability, it is
either quite specialised or is issued by one national accounting
body and “doesn’t really travel around the world”.

“The PAIB saw itself as a vehicle that could
usefully develop introductory level guidance for the millions of
accountants who work in business around the world and who belong to
IFAC member bodies,” he explained.

PAIB senior technical manager Stathis Gould
stressed the holistic nature of the framework.

“Rather than taking just one particular
perspective, such as reporting and assurance, it covers the whole
management cycle,” he said. “In taking a framework approach, we try
to synthesise the key issues and considerations and good practice
in a way that doesn’t offer all the answers, but leaves people to
ask the right questions then directs them to the good information
resources that are already out there, of which there are many.”

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Other PAIB guidance, while not standards, are
intended to influence how accountants in business approach
particular aspects of their work. However, Rogers notes the PAIB
held back from describing anything on sustainability as
international good practice guidance.

“I think the view is that it is too early to
suggest that what IFAC is saying is best practice, is
state-of-the-art,” he explained. “This is more informative, more
educational.”

The framework took about 18 months to complete
and concludes a three-year project plan that has included a paper
on environmental management accounting and a booklet featuring
interviews with leading accountants involved in the sustainability
arena worldwide. Rogers said the guidance is a “living document”
that will be frequently revised and updated.