The importance of education and training to reach net zero
ICAS welcomes UK Government’s Strategy’s emphasis on the importance of education and training to reach net zero.
As a signatory to the Sustainable Finance Education Charter (SFEC), we are pleased to see that the UK Government’s updated Green Finance Strategy has a greater emphasis on the importance of capacity and capability-building to support the UK’s net zero ambitions, and recognises the key and unique role played by UK-based professional bodies.
This latest version of the Green Finance Strategy outlines the UK’s plan to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The strategy mainstreams climate and environmental factors as a financial imperative, with an emphasis on mobilising private finance for clean and resilient growth and cementing UK leadership in green finance. However, as the Sustainable Finance Education Charter reveals in its new report on the UK’s Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) skills set in the financial services sector, UK employers, educators and the government need to do more to secure the UK’s future as a global sustainable finance centre, and to deliver the commitments made by financial services firms.
The research, conducted by 14 leading financial Chartered and professional bodies, representing more than a million finance professionals, to support the development of the UK Government’s recently revised Green Finance Strategy, highlights four key findings which reveal that; the majority of respondents do not consider their organisations to be highly prepared for future requirements in green and sustainable finance (a cause for concern given the UK’s net zero ambitions and the sustainability commitments and strategies of many financial services employers); the majority of respondents felt their organisation was not targeting training budgets towards training employees in green and sustainable finance to support their organisation’s sustainability strategy; the green and sustainable finance skills gap is wider than the knowledge gap; and finally, capacity and capability-building are a higher priority in other countries and the UK may fall behind if this isn’t addressed by employers, professional bodies, educators and the UK Government.
Professional bodies are already playing their part as demonstrated in the Sustainable Finance Education Charter 2nd Progress Report. Signatories, including ICAS, are incorporating sustainability into initial and continuing professional development programmes.
Together we acknowledge the collective responsibility of the global community, including banking, finance and professional services sectors to deliver society’s goals as expressed in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Climate Agreement and the Global Biodiversity Framework. Indeed, the Charter has recently announced its formal name change to better reflect the need for professional bodies to engage with our members on issues beyond climate, including on biodiversity, nature-based finance and social sustainability.
Sarah Wilkin CA, Director of Sustainability at ICAS, said: “Upskilling our members to respond to the challenges and opportunities of sustainable development is of utmost importance to ICAS. We recognise that the accounting profession has a key role to play in contributing to achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and is well placed to be at the heart of the changes needed in the business and finance sectors to meet net zero targets. We are committed to advocating for sustainability policy with governments, standard setters, regulators and businesses, and are pleased the UK Government recognise the need for capacity building to maintain the UK’s position as a leader in green and sustainable finance.”
Collectively the UK’s professional bodies have the appetite, expertise, and resources – and seek to encourage other bodies to join the Charter to work together to support its objectives. We hope that professional bodies and their members everywhere recognise this shared, global challenge, and the strategic, commercial and moral imperative to develop clean, resilient and prosperous economies that work for all.
About the Sustainable Finance Education Charter
Announced in the UK Government’s 2019 original Green Finance Strategy, and launched in June 2020, the Green Finance Education Charter (GFEC) was a world first. Reflecting the need for professional bodies to engage with our members on issues beyond climate, including on biodiversity, nature-based finance and social sustainability, the Charter was recently relaunched as the Sustainable Finance Education Charter (SFEC).
The Charter is designed to build the capacity and capability of the green and sustainable finance sector in the UK and internationally. The SFEC currently comprises 14 professional bodies, representing around 1 million finance professionals and includes signatory members from those in the accounting, actuarial science, audit, banking, insurance, investment, risk management and treasury sectors.
Individually and collectively SFEC member bodies play critical roles in setting and embedding professional, technical and market standards and norms in UK and global finance.
The SFEC also acknowledges the collective responsibility of the global community, including banking, finance and professional services sectors to deliver society’s goals as expressed in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Climate Agreement and the Global Biodiversity Framework.
The report on the UK’s Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) skills set in the financial services sector was led and sponsored by the Chartered Body Alliance (Chartered Banker Institute, Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment and Chartered Insurance Institute) on behalf of the SFEC signatories. An online survey was conducted between 17th October 2022 until 28th November 2022. The sample comprised of 69 organisations of which the majority are operating in professional services (29%), banking (17%) and asset management (16%). Organisations surveyed were mainly small and medium sized organisations (66%) ranging from 1 to 999 employees.
Find out more about the Sustainable Finance Education Charter on the Chartered Banker website.