Unsung heroes of climate action: Accountants at the heart of sustainable decision-making for businesses

Unsung heroes of climate action: Accountants at the heart of sustainable decision-making for businesses

The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General has reminded the world that we are “on a fast track to climate disaster”. In Malaysia, we are already bearing the brunt of extreme weather caused by climate change: enduring hotter and hotter days, while also facing frequent torrential rain and unpredictable flooding.

 So far, Malaysia’s fiscal commitment to combating the climate crisis largely revolves around new policies and action plans. For example, the Joint Committee on Climate Change (JC3) was set up in 2019 with Bank Negara Malaysia and the Securities Commission Malaysia as the chair. JC3 members comprise Bursa Malaysia and 21 financial industry players to implement climate change taxonomy in an effort to build climate resilience within the financial sector.

Furthermore, our financial institutions have pledged to create a green(er) finance landscape and environmentally friendly projects. The Net Zero Banking Alliance and the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, to name a few, prove their commitment in transparent reporting and accounting in line with the net zero objective.

We have also seen business leaders incorporate more sustainable business practices and projects as part of their corporate social responsibility—but is there something that could help them do this better?

In the race against time to turn the corner on global climate change by 2030, the climate heroes we all need are where many people least expect to find them: accountants.

Holding businesses accountable

 A decade has passed since the phrase “accountants will save the world” was publicised at the Rio+20 UN Conference. Still, many think of accountants as deskbound employees, tirelessly working with a calculator in one hand and sheaves of papers with numbers in the other. In reality, accountants and their core skills are significant for social transformation in three different aspects: business strategy, advisory and advocacy, as well as transparent reporting.

Accountants who can think beyond the numbers and see the big picture are essential in business strategy development towards a more sustainable future. With their expertise, accountants can crunch relevant climate change data into business planning before developing strategies for risk mitigation to ensure asset protection and reduce potential liabilities. This will put them at the forefront to lead in product development and strategic initiatives in order to reach companies’ sustainable goals.

Moreover, accountants have the skills to provide independent assurance on organisations’ sustainability progress through transparent reporting. This better disclosure allows for a clear link between financial and non-financial information to make evidence-based decisions on climate-related risks and opportunities. Furthermore, providing up-to-date and reliable data will show the collective progress and can build trust that the organisation is playing their part.

By including a sustainability-oriented lens in their reporting, accountants then become the best organisational fit for business advisory and advocacy on potential climate risks. They are equipped to develop data-backed measures for a more sustainable future, plus better support organisations in fulfilling their corporate responsibility to tackle climate change issues from within.

Nurturing a green generation of accountants

With all eyes on climate change and sustainable business practices, everyone has a responsibility to act urgently. It can start with academic institutions leading the way in climate action and a sustainable future. Many are expecting universities to make practical changes in the way their institution is being run, such as switching to greener energy, reducing energy output and encouraging green and sustainable habits among staff and students.

Through TYMBA’s work in furthering the study of accountancy, academic institutions—especially accountancy courses—have a far more significant role to play: actively raising a budding generation of capable, climate-conscious accountants.

From how they conduct research to how they educate the students, these institutions can be the catalyst for real and lasting change in the field of environmentalism. They have the potential to produce accountant graduates who will be at the forefront of addressing the climate crisis.

As pioneers of knowledge and research, universities can leverage their expertise not only to make its own significant advancements in Malaysian climate action, but also to ingrain in an upcoming generation of accountants the ability to stand their ground and collectively work to heal a world in crisis.

The growing interest in sustainable business practices is already leading to a significant increase in the number of higher education institutions offering sustainability-focused qualifications and modules. In meeting the growing demand for skilful accountants, more universities in Malaysia need to make the necessary changes and update their syllabi to incorporate relevant topics including ESG, circular economy, and corporate sustainability.

Today, the role of accountants is not just to crunch some numbers and provide financial calculations. Professional accountants have a critical role to play in ensuring actionable information that will accurately disclose the impact of the climate crisis on companies and vice versa. In this, accountants are the climate heroes we need for our futures.

About TYMBA Education

Tymba Education Group is a privately-owned Bumiputera Professional Accountancy Training Centre, led by founder, Sir Airil Razali and his team of experienced Bumiputera Chartered Accountants. Our vision is to become the leading Bumiputera Professional Accounting Centre, producing quality Bumiputera professionals that will be able to provide values to the economy.

Started with only 30 students, TYMBA has now grown to over 2,000 students within a year. Up to date, we have successfully produced several global prize-winners and attained consistent higher average passing rates compared to the world average.

As a recognition of our achievements, ACCA awarded TYMBA Education the Gold Approved Learning Partner status. TYMBA aspires to be a part of the professional education ecosystem, where we connect key industry leaders to TYMBA students, providing them a wide range of job opportunities. TYMBA hopes to become the enabler and the integrator within this network, creating a resilient ecosystem.

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