What should accountants know about becoming carbon neutral? – economia

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Author: ICAEW Insights
Published: 13 Feb 2023
“The whole process of becoming a carbon-neutral company requires persistence,” says Greg Gormley, co-founder and CEO of climate change specialists SKOOT – a B Corp-accredited organisation, verified to meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. “I liken it to how individuals approach losing weight. Many people set themselves a weight target and commit themselves to a diet and exercise routine to get there. Then, somewhere along the line, they lapse into old habits – perhaps because they lose patience with the continuous effort to maintain their target weight.”
It’s a similar deal with carbon neutrality, Gormley warns: “It’s not a state you ever actually reach. It’s something that you work on permanently and build into the lifestyle of your business. All the time, there’s a front-of-mind cognisance of your carbon footprint.”
For Gormley, the key to driving a widespread improvement in carbon management is to urge as many businesses as possible to participate. “Even if you don’t offset your full carbon footprint today,” he says, “what really matters is that you make that start.”
With that in mind, SKOOT is focusing the assistance it provides mainly on UK SMEs – service- and people-led businesses of all stripes that may be eager to measure and then remove their carbon, but don’t have all the information about what to do and how to get started. One business benefitting from SKOOT’s advice is the City-based firm of chartered accountants, Lubbock Fine.
Founded in 1929 and based in St Paul’s, London, Lubbock Fine already had a keen focus on its impact on society and the environment before it set out to become carbon neutral last year.
“Our partners’ decision-making has always focused on doing the right thing for employees, clients and the business community in which we operate,” says COO Robert Morley. “For many years, the firm and its staff have supported charities that help those in need and drive social mobility – such as the ICAEW-sponsored Rise Initiative. And we have long encouraged eco-friendly practices in our workspace and among our suppliers.”
Lubbock Fine’s ambition to become carbon neutral stemmed from a growing recognition that many of the world’s problems – from extinction of wildlife to poverty – are worsened by climate change. But despite its strong levels of social and environmental awareness, the firm didn’t know what its options were for reaching that goal.
“The main challenge at the outset was not knowing where to start, or who we could turn to for assistance,” Morley says. “It initially felt like wanting a cup of coffee and starting the process by having to reach out to the plantation owners.”
Lubbock Fine decided its first step should be to ascertain its current, operational carbon footprint. In the course of its research the firm identified a number of specialists that offer calculation services but no practical offsetting solutions, and several others presenting the reverse issue. Eventually, it found out about SKOOT, which covers both angles and immediately began to help rationalise the calculation process.
For example, Morley says: “Gathering data on our average, annual mileage by all transport methods looked daunting at first. But then we realised that we had already collected much of that information as part of our global, corporate travel insurance renewals.”
Although several different carbon neutral standards are available, the one most recognised in the EU – with which SKOOT helps its clients to align – is the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. As part of its service, SKOOT provides clients with impact certificates that show the outside world the net effects of a company’s carbon neutral status – and can even be applied to specific events.
 “You may send three executives on a long-haul flight to an industry exhibition, which could be very important for your business, but a major carbon accelerator. Following the expo, you can include an impact certificate in a LinkedIn post about the event, which states the carbon effects of the trip and shows how the business is removing them. To support that, the business would have a dashboard for checking the status of its carbon footprint. These types of solutions cost as little as £5 per month,” Gormley says.
Evidence suggests that a meaningful focus on ESG is increasingly striking a chord, sparking interest among young people who are paying ever greater attention to companies’ policies in this area. 
 “There is no doubt that Generation Z has high levels of engagement with climate change issues, is talking more about the need for action and is getting involved with everything from volunteering to protesting,” Morley says.
The sentiment is also feeding into career and employment choices, Morley believes: “As a firm, we are seeing increasing numbers of recruitment candidates who are actively placing climate credentials at the forefront of their decision-making – plus an uptick in people deciding to leave firms that have even a perceived negative impact on the environment.”
Broader client interest, meanwhile, may take some time to germinate – but the seeds are there. “At the moment, we see no material increase in prospective clients deciding to enhance their climate analysis questions in the tendering processes,” Morley says. “Many still simply want to know whether the firm has appropriate policies in place. However, as the oldest Gen Z professionals are starting to enter junior management roles, this will undoubtedly change in the not-too-distant future.”
To maintain carbon-neutral status, Lubbock Fine must every year resubmit to SKOOT’s carbon calculator to ensure the firm’s record is up to date, Morley explains. “We must also re-evaluate our carbon footprint if, during the year, the business undergoes any material changes – for example, following significant organic growth, acquisition, investment or the addition of new clients in a region that requires us to do considerably more flying than we’ve envisaged.
“Remedial actions could include reductions and avoidance, or further offsetting,” Morley adds. “Being carbon neutral is a moment in time, and we must continue on this journey.”
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