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December 15, 2011

Prince Charles: Business must embrace integrated reporting

LONDON: The Prince of Wales has called for more businesses to join the International Integrated Reporting Committee’s integrated reporting pilot programme in his annual address to the Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project at St James’s Palace in London.

On Thursday, Prince Charles said he would like to see more businesses join the 38 organisations who are taking part in the programme, which aims to evolve best practices and provide useful feedback to create an integrated reporting framework.

In a passionate plead to accountants, business leaders, investors and stakeholders, Prince Charles warned time is running out to address climate change and ignoring sustainable practices could contribute to a “perfect storm” of dire consequences.

“If we are to tackle the challenges of over-consumption of natural resources and the impact of climate change, it is vital we have better information about the risks and opportunities that the transition to a sustainable global economy will entail. And, that information needs translation into economic terms that mean something in the world of finance and accounting,” he said.

“The bottom line is obvious – we are consuming our children’s and grandchildren’s inheritance. We have no excuse today to not do anything about it.”

Sustaining resources

The UK’s future King acknowledged that current economic conditions made it more difficult for businesses to place sustainability at the top of their corporate agendas but explained that good sustainable practices are vital to ensure future economic prosperity.

“You do not need me, I am sure, to point out how grim the economic climate is. At a time like this, sustainability can all too easily seem a bit of a distraction, or even a frustrating hindrance to economic development – a cost centre for business that’s a ‘nice-to-have’ but has no place at the table in the current circumstances,” he said.

“The trouble is that in our high tech age we have totally lost sight of the fact that the ultimate source of all our economic capital is natural capital. So if we continue to draw down on this capital without replenishing it, then I am afraid we will visit upon ourselves economic, social and environmental crises that will have fundamental implications for how we live our lives and for the prosperity of everyone born and yet unborn on the planet.” 

Inaction, Prince Charles continued, could lead to a “perfect storm accompanied by a mass stampede of headless chickens”.

A call for leadership

The Prince of Wales urged the business community to provide leadership on sustainability to “help governments create an economic framework with natural and social capital at its heart”.

“Because, make no mistake, the decisions that investors and businesses take in the next few years will have a cumulative impact on humanity’s ability to survive in the long-term, in a way and to an extent never seen before,” he said.

The Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project was established by the Prince Charles in 2004 to develop practical approaches for embedding sustainability into decision making and reporting.

Accountants have taken a vital role in promoting sustainability reporting and advising companies how to implement it as a core business activity.

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