Luckily for you, as their accountant you have a deep understanding of their financial situations. That means you can offer strategic ESG advice to add value to their business. Pushing ESG initiatives goes far beyond just crunching numbers though, which is why we’ve put together the three pillars you need to lead clients towards ESG success.
It takes a lot of bravery to be transparent, especially when you’re not exactly where you want to be. Greenwashing (when you portray your company as sustainable but take no action towards sustainability) is rampant throughout the business world, and your clients could easily walk into tricky PR situations they can’t easily get away from if they claim to be greener than they really are. So, if your client wants to take on more ESG initiatives like reducing their carbon footprint or taking on a more diverse range of new hires – the proof of the pudding is in the eating. 76% of consumers say that they would stop buying from companies that treat the environment poorly, so a lack in transparency could potentially ruin reputations and deter investment opportunities.
Words alone aren’t enough – they need to get the stats pronto and show the impact they’re actually making (or at least working towards making). 77% of SMEs in the UK have formally stated their ESG goals, and those goals can be based on a variety of metrics – from carbon emissions to diversity and inclusion, and everything in between. For example, maybe one of your clients is a largely paper-based company. You could introduce a digital file storage system that helps them reduce their paper load by 20% over the next 12 months. Be honest from the get-go and have a roadmap in place to improve these errors of judgement.
While this honest reporting may seem brutal and scary initially, it’ll work out in their favour in the long run. And as their accountant, that’s your time to shine. Once you have a thorough understanding of ESG reporting standards, metrics, frameworks and how to integrate them into clients’ budgets, you can help them achieve their goals in a way that’s financially realistic and sustainable.
Let’s face it – they’re not going to achieve your ESG goals overnight. Clients can have all sorts of wonderful and whimsical notions – oh, you’re going to be carbon neutral in six months? Nice one. You’re hiring ten graduates next week? Best of luck.
Sure, Mastercard’s The Priceless Planet Coalition Program aims to restore one million trees by 2025, and Microsoft plans to be carbon negative by 2030. These are big companies with larger-than-life stories, so while your clients shouldn’t be directly copy and pasting the same strategies, they can still pluck some inspiration from them.
We all know that once busy season comes around, everything else takes a back seat, so make sure you both set realistic goals that you can both dedicate to in the long run. A short-term KPI could be to switch a quarter of your clients to e-payslips over the next year. A longer-term goal could be to have your own office run off renewable energy sources (and spread the word to your clients!), offer eco-friendly incentives, or adopt a zero-waste policy. By setting achievable, meaningful, yet challenging targets you can make steady progress and a real impact.
Remember that this isn’t a lone wolf project – collaboration is essential and woven into the very fabrics of ESG. A rising tide lifts all ships, and you need to be strategic on how to guide your clients through this. Leverage your professional network and peers working in the industry for best practices and sustainable initiatives.
Start from the ground up – do your staff or clients even understand what ESG is and why it’s important? With 42% of people having inefficient or no process to identify or implement ESG changes, consider running training sessions and offering resources. A short guide could do the trick, or even an infographic if you’re stuck for time. Also make sure ESG awareness is on a company-wide level across all departments, and not just sitting with a couple of individuals.
Tech is another piece of the ESG jigsaw. What’s the point in all of these if you don’t have systems in place to even bring them to life? Take a look at your own tech stack – is it as up to scratch as it could be? Are there any features your clients could use to up their ESG game? For example, if you use a practice management software – how many of them are using it as a way to digitalise their file storage? Payroll is noteworthy too– how many clients could switch to e-payslips? What about e-signing tools? There are countless software solutions out there to help you carve out a more sustainable future.
How will you lead the way?
Remember that this isn’t just about making a difference for your clients’ sakes, but also about driving value for your own firm. By taking on your own ESG advice, you can attract and retain top talent, improve your reputation with clients and investors, cut down on costs, and position yourself as a thought leader in a rapidly changing landscape.
Here at Bright, we’re a mission to make a happy and efficient working life a reality for accountants through reliable software and amazing support. Interested in learning how our software suite can support you and your clients’ ESG goals? Just click the button below to get started on your Bright journey today.
Written by Eleanor Vaughey | Bright
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