Posted on 11/06/2010
'Sustainability' has become much more than a buzzword these days. While the politicians had limited success in integrating sustainability into legal and institutional frameworks at the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen in December, the UK is seeing some changes which give small reason for hope. Within its first 24 hours the new UK government made a symbolic but important move to sign up to '10:10', the grassroots initiative to reduce carbon emissions by 10% in 2010 (www.1010uk.org), committing to reduce central government's emissions over the next 12 months. Meanwhile, UK business is squaring up to the legal challenges from the EU and the UK Climate Change Act 2008 and, perhaps just as importantly, starting to see sustainability as an integral part of their business offering.
One initiative taking hold at the heart of UK businesses is the Prince of Wales' Accounting for Sustainability Project (A4S). As HRH The Prince of Wales says,
"There was a time when we could say that there was either a complete lack of knowledge, or at least room for doubt, about the consequences for our planet of our actions. That time has gone. We now know all too clearly what we are actually doing and that we need to do something about it urgently. Better accounting must be part of that process."
Five members of the Centre for Research into Sustainability at Royal Holloway have been working with other leading sustainability accounting academics, and the Accounting for Sustainability team to help advance our understanding of how businesses embed sustainability into their decision-making and accounting business processes. A book resulting from this research aimed at influencing business leaders called 'Accounting for Sustainability: Practical Insights', will be launched on 24th June at the Aviva head office in London.
CRIS members have had a significant involvement in the project. Professor Jeffrey Unerman, one of the co-editors of the book, recently left Royal Holloway to join Manchester Business School. As well as the editorial contribution, Professor Unerman worked with CRIS visiting Professor Brendan O'Dwyer on a case study on British Telecom. Dr Laura Spence (CRIS Director) and Dr Leonardo Rinaldi have contributed a case study on Sainsbury's, a project also supported by Dr David Bevan (CRIS Deputy-Director). Dr Spence said
"We in CRIS are very proud of our contribution to the Prince of Wales' project and are hopeful that the book and our research will help to make real inroads into understanding and addressing the practical issues faced by businesses who want - and need - to embed sustainability in their fundamental business processes".
The book, available from Earthscan publishing, has already been widely acclaimed.
"Most companies still don't have a clue about the full extent of their impacts on the environment – let alone the full monetized cost of those impacts. The eight case studies provide an invaluable starting point in terms of accounting more intelligently for those impacts."
Jonathon Porritt, Founder Director, Forum for the Future