Blog

23 January 2020

Accountants can change the world by Alan Johnson, Deputy President of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC)

By 2050, there will be 9 billion people living on the planet and climate change will exacerbate all the challenges we face. As professional accountants, we must ensure we play our part in making economies sustainable. The profession needs to shape its agenda to support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We can have an impact on at least 8 of the 17 SDGs, including: quality education, gender equality, decent work and economic growth, reduced inequalities, responsible consumption & production, climate action, peace, justice and strong institutions, and partnerships for the goals.

Read more on how accountants can contribute to the SDGs in IFAC’s snapshot.

Accountants for resilient economies

Collectively, our profession contributes over $550 billion to the global economy. Research shows that a high number of accountants in a country correlates with high GDP per capita and Human Development Index Scores, so continuing to strengthen the accounting profession around the world contributes positively to economies.

As we help society face outward challenges, we should also get ready for the future ourselves. I see 3 focus areas:

  1. evolve corporate reporting into a broader ecosystem encompassing all stakeholder needs across all forms of reporting, as Accountancy Europe is already leading on
  2. enhance audit quality. There have been failures, but we have responded and learn from them and address the core issues
  3. make the profession attractive for the next generation. We face a war for talent, and we must be the destination for the brightest and best minds.

Ethics: our gold standard

The role ethics plays in our profession cannot be overemphasised. Our ethical standards are critical to fulfil our public interest mandate, for example in supporting efforts to fight financial crime, improving auditor independence and delivering improved corporate governance. There is simply no other global profession bound by a code of ethics that has been adopted and implemented in over 150 countries. We must never undermine it, to do so would cause irreparable damages.

A truly global profession

Representing just over one-third of the world’s professional accountants, Accountancy Europe is an important member of the IFAC family. It has unique resources, knowledge and skills that we must leverage for our profession globally. The work Accountancy Europe does in helping inform global policies and regulations has an impact around the entire world. Europe may be ‘the old continent’, but it is driving innovation, leading on social and economic integration and most importantly on sustainability.

We would like to thank Mr. Johnson for opening our Members Engagement’s Day dinner with the speech that inspired this blog. Photo credit: IFAC

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