FT Rethink

Warrior accountants: leading the green revolution?

Gillian Tett - Chair of Editorial Board and US Editor-at-Large, Financial Times

Gillian Tett

Chair of Editorial Board and US Editor-at-Large, Financial Times

When it comes to green issues, many assume activists and campaigners will change the world. Yet, the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated our vulnerabilities as our health, food and educational systems have taken a hard hit. And no one has been spared. So now is the time for collective forces to come together.

Economies have been deeply impacted and the fiscal, monetary and government measures taken to contain the virus, and its consequences, have been unprecedented. And although the race for a vaccine is underway, it could take many months or years.

Yet, one thing is certain. When addressing the social and economic consequences of the pandemic, we must not forget about green issues. Why? Because it's another crisis in the making that will not be short-lived and remains a staggering global challenge. The pandemic offers an opening to push for more transparency and consistency from companies in order to build a sustainable future - one that is more resilient in the face of future emergencies.

When addressing the social and economic consequences of the pandemic, we must not forget about green issues.

Deep pockets?

Governments, regulators and the private sector must work together to lead the charge. Whilst governments are offering bailouts and pouring billions into sustaining economies, there's a larger opportunity at hand to secure a net-zero future.

 

The pandemic has accelerated the call for companies to rethink their business models. For the Financial Times's Gillian Tett, the pressure is on for many companies who feel the need to provide more transparency to their shareholders. As a result, reporting on green issues is scaling up. This is when different audit systems come into play to consider a company’s impact on the environment.

We firmly believe that a sustainable and socially responsible business model will help companies better perform and alleviate the risk they face from today's crisis and the ones to come.

For the Financial Times's Gillian Tett, the pressure is on for many companies who feel the need to provide more transparency to their shareholders

"Green" strings

And this continues to be exacerbated by the consequences of the coronavirus as many are asking for further accountability when it comes to government bailouts, especially for offshore companies and airlines.

Aviation, which has been drastically impacted in recent months, is estimated to lose up to $252 billion in revenues if severe travel restrictions were to last three months, says the International Air Transport Association (IATA). According to Bloomberg, government bailouts to airline companies account for more than $85 billion. There is a clear opportunity to set the industry on a sustainable path.

Many are asking for further accountability when it comes to government bailouts, especially for offshore companies and airlines.

In France, the minister for ecological transition, Élisabeth Borne, insisted that Air France-KLM, who received a €7.7 billion bailout, would not receive “a blank cheque”. The government has set “ecological commitments" including a 50% reduction in carbon emissions on domestic flights by 2024, as well as investing in more fuel-efficient planes", she said.


Making companies accountable

Gillian Tett explains, here in our video, that auditors, rating agency experts, corporate accountants and even journalists could have a far greater impact than activists could, by making sure green commitments are respected.

A greener future relies on social and sustainable commitments from financial and audit professionals. Accountants could well be the ones to do more to change the world than we ever expected.

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