Anton Schmidl is Equity Partner and Thomas Wallner is Audit Director at Crowe SOT, a 60-employee professional services network in Austria. Their mission? Support SMEs with their sustainable transition.
What do SMEs need help with?
Our practice supports SMEs on sustainability awareness and helps them integrate sustainability into their business risk management. This includes understanding the company’s sustainability external impacts. This is important as most SME are unaware of the sustainability impacts that they can have, as well as impacts on their own business. This is especially the case for very small businesses.
For example, banks now send questionnaires to keep track of their SME clients’ sustainability targets. However, most business owners are at loss with how to deal with them or what the expectations are. These questionnaire formats are not standardised which adds to the confusion. Even among SMEs that have started transitioning their business models, many wonder where to start, what to measure and which figures to report.
A new management approach
SMEs can begin the sustainability journey with simple steps, such as having a new management approach and looking at sustainability risks. It can be as simple as an initial risk inventory. From then, they can gather the required information and documentation. Collecting basic sustainability data is not as complicated as many fear.
What can auditors and accountants do?
Auditors and accountants are there to help SMEs. We like to compare ourselves to general practitioners in medicine, with a good grasp of the business’ overall performance. We know how to gather and report information, and what first steps are realistic for each SME. For specialised knowledge e.g. on building valuation or energy rating, we reach out to technical experts within our network.
Auditors for their turn can provide assurance on SMEs’ sustainability information, for example when this is demanded by SMEs’ banks or large value chain partners. They have solid experience of what rigorous assurance requires. Many other experts also offer assurance services, but lack robust audit background which could lead to greenwashing.
This article is part of our Insights from SME accountants series, where small practitioners share their experience supporting SMEs with their sustainable transition. Connect with Anton Schmidl on LinkedIn.