The role of accountants in supporting mechanisms to promote sustainable development
Robert E Langford, ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales), United Kingdom
Changes in expectations and attitudes to sustainable development are prompting governments, investors and enterprises to use a number of different mechanisms to enhance environmental, social and economic performance. The paper takes a global view, identifying eight such mechanisms: + Prohibitions and requirements + Taxes and subsidies + Tradable permits + Supply chain impacts + Voluntary codes + Company policies + Stakeholder engagement + Rating and benchmarking

Each of these mechanisms is shown to be dependent on credible information flows if they are to operate effectively. This is seen as an area where accountants will have much to contribute, collaborating with business and working with other experts where necessary. The eight mechanisms are underpinned by internal and external reporting, supported where appropriate by a process of assurance.

The paper draws on the results of a recent survey of practitioner opinions, summarising the existing involvement of the accountancy profession and pointing the way forward, including the implications for future education and training. Each of the mechanisms leads to a number of challenging questions for discussion and further research.

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