In January, the UN launched one of its the most ambition initiatives – a vision for the world in 2030, articulated in seventeen sustainable development goals. This is the largest consultation ever undertaken – over 8 million people participated, 70 countries contributed, all 193 nations signed up. The Goals are a powerful story and inspiring opportunity for the world to come together and design fair and prosperous societies, resilient and responsible organisations.
This will be a different world and business will play a massive role in achieving that different world. Therefore, ICAEW is asking a bold and challenging question:
What should be the role of the accountancy and finance profession in helping businesses transform and deliver on the Goals?
In partnership with the Royal College of Art and Judge Business School, we have launched a project to explore this question and identify practical ideas. Interdisciplinary teams of designers and MBA students will work together with accounting, finance and business professionals. Over a 10 week period, teams will innovate new services that can engage, enable and support enterprises who are inspired by these development goals – helping turn inspiration into concrete actions.
The outcome of these projects will be shared at the Future Enterprise Salon held during the RCA’s Summer Show 2016. Projects might be selected for further development over the summer; and the final work will be launched at the Sustain RCA show in late September/early October.
On 25 September 2015 the 193 Members of the United Nations General Assembly formally adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which included the Goals. The Goals expand significantly on the Millennium Development Goals and are universally relevant rather than being focused on developing countries. As the Goals were developed through the largest consultation programme and working group in the UN’s history, they have a legitimacy they would not have had had they been developed by a group of experts.
The goals are a compelling and clear articulation by humanity of the world we want. Richard Spencer, Head of Sustainability at the ICAEW, summarises this as ‘a world of prosperous and resilient economies, fair and just societies and all within the limits of what the world can provide’. This is a very different world to the one we have today and cannot be achieved by “business as usual”. Nor can we achieve this vision by doing what we do now but better – more efficiently and carefully. We will all as individual citizens, as organisations, as countries and as businesses have to change the way we behave in order to meet this challenge.
ICAEW believes that the accountancy and finance profession has a role in all goals and indicators because of its core skills in measurement, reporting and assurance. But this could appear self-serving unless we are prepared to address some of the big underlying issues covered by the Goals in line with our charter obligation to act in the public interest.
Through the AuditFutures programme, ICAEW is looking to tackle some of the main challenges before the accountancy profession. Acting as catalysts for new thinking and fresh perspectives, AuditFutures aims to inspire constructive dialogue and collaborative innovation about the role of audit and the accountancy profession in twenty-first century society. Over the past three years, RCA has worked with AuditFutures on a number of collaborations and this project takes the partnership to a new level.
Goal of the project
Students from the RCA and Judge Business School, Cambridge will work in interdisciplinary teams coached by financial professionals from the ICAEW and experienced designers from the RCA, to develop a service proposition that enables start-ups and established enterprises to leverage the UN’s sustainable development goals to transform their business models and philosophy.
Participants will examine existing start-up and incubator services, successful enterprises, networks and toolkits; identify barriers and opportunities at a human and systems level; and use these insights to develop new services that enable business leaders to drive business development while addressing these ambitious goals.
This is a project about systemic behaviour change and the outcomes may be as diverse as educational programmes, mentoring services or new types of collaborative enterprise platforms.