Response, reset, recovery: How accountancy bodies around the world are standing up to COVID-19
We highlight a report by the Accounting Bodies Network (ABN) of A4S on the profession’s response to the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic placed unprecedented demands and pressure on accountants. The way the profession adapted to keep businesses alive and keep the economy afloat cannot be understated.
A report by the Accounting Bodies Network (ABN) of A4S, The Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project, demonstrates some of the ways that accountants stood up to the pandemic and helped their members, clients and staff during a time of great uncertainty and anxiety.
The report separates the findings into three distinct themes: Response, Reset and Recovery. A summary of some of the key messages from each of these themes is detailed below.
Professional accountancy bodies provided support to their members by developing tools and resources to help them navigate the economic stimuli and packages introduced at a jurisdictional level. It was clear that agility, responsiveness and technologies were key enablers in their approach.
Many bodies created dedicated online hubs, which clearly signposted members toward relevant information and advice.
Face-to-face events suddenly switched to webinars and a variety of COVID-19 related technical and issues-specific webinars were organised to help members throughout the pandemic.
The clear message from bodies and members of the accountancy profession is that they do not want a quick fix that puts us back on our previous track. They want to reset before we start to rebuild. There is an inherent belief that reverting to past habits would not be worth the long-term cost – socially, environmentally or economically.
The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted how intertwined financial performance and sustainability are. Therefore, to protect the economy against future shocks, sustainability, and climate change specifically, needs to be at the core of any recovery.
The role of the accountant is changing and the profession needs to adapt accordingly. All of the bodies that participated in the research recognised their role in making sure their membership is equipped for the future.
Professional accountancy bodies are now firmly established as strong advocates at the government level and have demonstrated to policy makers throughout the pandemic that sustainability should be at the core.
Some of the lessons learnt from the pandemic include the following:
- The accountant is more than just the accountant – the accounting community has been a pillar of strength and support to business, and the impending climate crisis can provide the opportunity to further cement their role outside the purely financial.
- Change is possible – the way that the profession was able to pivot to a more flexible, agile way of working, while maintaining effectiveness demonstrates that we can change and adapt when required.
- Virtual life can be successful and productive – at a basic level, the lockdowns have shown that there is often little need to travel, and that people can work from home and still produce the work required. However, there is an acknowledgement that personal interaction is important and this pandemic has pushed wellbeing and mental health higher up the agenda.
- The climate change agenda was not abandoned – many accountancy bodies are now reigniting their climate change work, many with a view to influencing the COP26 agenda in 2021. It is unwaveringly clear among the ABN members that sustainability and climate change has to be an integral part of the reset and recovery.
Read the report in full.