This month we turn the spotlight to our second annual Sustainability Investment Leadership Conference. Once again, this unique conference brought together some of the foremost thought leaders in the field and practitioners from a variety of disciplines working on these issues daily. But this year’s gathering also went deeper into the salient issues, beyond merely preparing sustainability reports and providing assurance on sustainability practices.
To many of our readers, the word “sustainability” evokes environmental concerns—curbing greenhouse gas emissions or reducing water use. But it covers much more than that, encompassing not only intellectual property and human resources but also social justice, which, along with the traditional finance and manufacturing, represent all of the six capitals that businesses require to function. Integrated reporting entails an accounting for all of these areas, reflecting the unity of corporate operations. But to be successful, it also requires that corporate leadership adopt a new mindset of integrated thinking.
According to the godfather of integrated reporting, Mervyn King, the CFO must adopt the mindset of a chief value officer, seeing things through a value creation lens. In his mind, accountants are crucial in bringing about this change in corporate mindset. And accountants are essential in providing sustainability assurance, ensuring against the potential destruction of value—for example, if inattention to human or social capital masks reputational risks within the supply chain.
King and other speakers sought to answer the rhetorical question posed at last year’s conference: “Can accountants save the planet?” King answered in the affirmative, and many participants discussed their own aspirations and contributions. But the accounting profession will not reach this vision of the future without concerted, mindful action. Readers can use the ideas in this issue as a first step towards building that future.