Date posted: 14/01/2021

Report identifies key actions taken by leading finance teams during pandemic

Two new reports bring together conversations with Chief Financial Officers and other members of the finance and accounting community from around the world regarding COVID-19 response, reset and recovery.

In Brief

  • Accounting for Sustainability (A4S) has released two reports on the finance and accounting community’s response to the pandemic.
  • The Accounting Bodies Network Building a Better Future report provides examples of how the 16 professional accountancy bodies, including Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, have supported their members.
  • The second A4S report identifies key lessons for Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and finance teams and five action areas

A new international report highlights the essential role Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and finance teams play in supporting their organisations and the wider economy to transition from impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key lessons include pricing risks appropriately, establishing robust risk management frameworks, doing scenario analyses to manage future uncertainty and integrating sustainability processes and controls with operational and financial performance management.

The A4S Project’s report brings together conversations with CFOs, pension fund chairs, asset managers, accounting bodies, thought leaders and other members of the finance and accounting community from around the world.

The Accounting Bodies Network (ABN) of A4S has also released a Building a Better Future report that details how the 16 professional accountancy bodies belonging to the ABN, including Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ), have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Role of the Accounting Community report examines the accounting bodies' immediate response to the pandemic by exploring insights and highlighting key examples. It looks at the actions the bodies will take to reset and rebuild a more sustainable economy.

“There will come a time where we will have to start thinking about how we grow the economy and begin to pay back that debt. “It’s an opportunity for long-term reform on a sustainable future. Future generations will be paying the cost of this support and so deserve to have a fairer, cleaner and more resilient economy in return.”
Ainslie van Onselen,  CA ANZ CEO

“It’s an opportunity for long-term reform on a sustainable future. Future generations will be paying the cost of this support and so deserve to have a fairer, cleaner and more resilient economy in return.”

The report includes examples of how CA ANZ supported members during the pandemic including the publication of the “Guide to non-financial risks in 2020”. As risks are becoming increasingly global, interconnected and multitiered, non-financial risk management is currently underdeveloped. The new guide will help members navigate this non-financial risk landscape.

The Role of the Accounting Community report explores insights and practical examples from the accounting community across three stages of the pandemic:

  • Response: how each professional body has responded to help their members navigate this unprecedented situation.
  • Reset: steps that professional bodies are currently taking to reset and place the economy on a sustainable trajectory.
  • Recovery: highlights how they plan on contributing to a sustainable recovery and lessons learned from their response to the pandemic.

Environmental and social credentials pay off

Interviews conducted with leading global CFOs and other members of the finance and accounting community suggests that companies with strong environmental and social credentials performed better during the pandemic.

“Purpose-led organisations have shown that they have competitive advantages and less exposure to risks, making them better prepared to weather the pandemic and its aftermath.”

This report highlights the crucial role accountants played in helping businesses, especially SMEs, to shore up finances, access government support schemes and put in place the financing needed to survive COVID-19 in the short term.

“CFOs and finance teams have an essential role to play in supporting their organisations and the wider economy to transition.

“They have a number of tools that they can bring to bear which the response to the pandemic has demonstrated as key.”

These include:

  • Price risks appropriately so that short-term benefits can be properly weighed against future potential costs.
  • Establish more robust risk management frameworks and proactively perform scenario analyses that help manage future uncertainty.
  • Integrate sustainability processes and controls with operational and financial performance management to provide rigour and deliver long-term goals.

The report also identifies five action areas in which CFOs and finance teams must play a role.

  1. Cementing a purpose-driven mindset
  2. Setting ambitious targets
  3. Performing proactive scenario analysis
  4. Collaborating with others
  5. Accelerating the adoption of global standards

“These areas are central to taking forward the lessons from the pandemic and accelerating the transition towards a sustainable economy.”

As part of organisational resets, CFOs should use their influence to promote and embed a purpose-driven, multi-stakeholder strategy and business model.

“Organisations need high quality financial information to improve their risk models, produce transparent reports and set and measure social and environmental targets. Collaboration is essential for tackling what lies ahead and will require finance teams to learn new approaches and share best practices.”

The report says there is an “increasing appreciation that a multi-stakeholder, multi-capital approach offers a holistic view and a strong framework for better business performance”.

Accounting Body Network members also want to seize this opportunity to reset and build back a more sustainable and resilient economy, and therefore create a sustainable legacy out of a crisis.

Building a Better Future

“How do we rebuild for greater resilience?” Accounting for Sustainability has been in close contact with its networks to understand and shape the answer to this question. It has pulled together the resulting insights and stories into two short reports and a series of podcast episodes.

Read more

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