Responsibility as a CA: Thomas Gillan CA
Winner of the ICAS 35 CAs under 35 sustainability & CSR category, Thomas Gillan CA, talks to Eleanor O'Neill about finding purpose and making a positive impact.
The sustainability and CSR category sought out the young CAs who care about safeguarding for the future. A keen social awareness and a dedication to positive change was essential.
Thomas impressed the judges with his innovative approach to instigating change. He has proven himself to be highly enthusiastic and dedicated to furthering sustainable business.
He works with Social Investment Scotland (SIS), who invest in businesses with a strong commitment to moral responsibility. Thomas recently set up SIS Community Capital, the UK's first mass participation social investment fund backed by social investment tax relief.
How did you enjoy the 35 CAs under 35 competition?
35 CAs under 35 was an excellent programme to be part of. It provided an opportunity to meet like-minded people who want to make a real and measurable positive impact through their career.
The shortlist included some really inspirational people and it was great to take the time to celebrate collective success, something I don’t believe we are actually that good at as a profession.
The experience also highlights the entrepreneurial talent within ICAS, which I hope will inspire the next generation of CAs.
Why did you decide to set up SIS Community Capital?
SIS ComCap for me was a no-brainer as we knew there was a demand from investors to make a socially positive investment and there was a need from social enterprises to attract private investor capital to grow and scale.
The opportunity was there for SIS to take a first-mover advantage in the market and that’s what we did: acting as the intermediary between investor and investee and understanding the social value created from these relationships.
I hope this can serve as a platform to boost conscious capitalism, a model of business which seeks to generate a profit and social impact simultaneously. This model recognises that shareholder value, whilst important, is not the sole driver in a business and instead focuses on value creation across a broader number of stakeholder groups.
What inspires you?
The organisations and entrepreneurs who we invest in. It’s a really tough slog and the resilience and passion shown by these individuals is what gets me out of bed in the morning.
How has the CA qualification helped you in your career?
Being a member of ICAS has been vital for my career progression to date. The significant knowledge gained and networks accessed have been instrumental in my development personally and professionally.
I regularly underestimate the breadth of knowledge and skills leveraged by the CA qualification.
What is your advice to businesses looking to become more sustainable?
I genuinely believe the time has come for all businesses to assess and report on the environmental and social impact of their activities. This is being driven by a variety of factors: from the millennial generation seeking purpose in their careers, consumers seeking responsible products, and investors seeking positive social impact from investments.
I would encourage both established businesses and start-ups to consider their social impact as part of strategic planning and embed these commitments into the DNA of the business.
Look longer term and not just at the bottom line. If the right ethos is embedded in the product/service then the profit side should take care of itself whilst creating a better world to live in.
The ICAS Sustainability Committee is supporting the UN’s sustainable development goals and encouraging CAs to make a difference.