How to start your journey towards responsible consumption and production

Helen Brand, chief executive of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) discusses the association's approach to tackling the Sustainable Development Goals, notably ones focused on resource efficiency, and how other businesses can kickstart a journey to the circular economy.

How to start your journey towards responsible consumption and production

When our organisation recently decided to make its public commitment to the UN SDGs, we chose nine we thought were the most relevant, including SDG 12 which covers responsible consumption and production.

Accountancy and finance professionals are at the heart of the key decisions for almost all organisations. Our 227,000 members in 176 countries are uniquely placed to lead their private, public sector and not for profit organisations in a sustainable direction.

And there is a multiplier effect for a membership organisation that can make commitments on behalf of the organisation itself, but also influence its members and future members to deliver those commitments.

Our concrete pledges towards the UN SDGs were published in December 2020, but the commitments they cover have been decades in development for an organisation that prides itself on its history of inclusivity and sustainability.

It’s not a simple matter to make a public and quantifiable commitment to goals like responsible consumption and production and I’d like to share the challenges we have faced and solutions we are developing to offer insight to other organisations.

Pick Your Goals

SDG 12 encompasses 11 wide-ranging targets but not all of them will be relevant or achievable for your organisation. Look at your own organisation but also at the influence you can offer. In our case, as well as monitoring and adopting sustainable practices ourselves, we can make the case that persuades the current and next generation of accountants to make the same choices for their organisations.

Committing to sustainability targets is a strategic decision for organisations, which needs the backing of senior leaders and the board. Many of these targets, including those set out under SDG12, will inform decisions you will make and will involve tough choices and delicate balances.

Align with your existing values

Meaningful goals need to align with your organisation’s existing values and actions. It’s also vital that the UN SDGs match the strategic goals of the organisation to ensure you’ll be able to pursue them wholeheartedly and be content to report on them annually.

Have a clear rationale for each commitment, with a framework of measures designed to deliver results. Organisations must be prepared to live up to their commitments, but they can be a work in progress and can evolve in different ways.

Communicate to all audiences

Our Professional Insights research department has highlighted the benefits and challenges of sustainability for many years, most recently in our Mainstreaming Impact: Scaling a Sustainable Recovery report.

We’ve also used our website and publications to highlight relevant insight and information, including having a coordinated global focus for the three months to December 2020 on the theme of Rethinking Business for a Sustainable Recovery.

In this way, we’re aiming to empower our community as well as our employees to reduce the consumption of resources.

Remember that you will be asking your people to get on board with new ways of working and thinking even more about the resources they consume, so winning their support is also vital.

Measure your progress

It’s vital to be able to measure your efforts and benchmark progress if you want to deliver a meaningful outcome from your commitment.

In the case of UN SDG 12, ACCA will be reporting on organisational consumption through our integrated report, which is also supportive of our commitment to UN SDG 13, and measuring our impact on our employees and our community. We will be focusing on intensifying and maximising our public comment and policy work around responsible consumption and production, so we can encourage greater adoption through our influencing activities.

It’s important to remember that this is a public and transparent commitment that needs to be tracked and measured against criteria shared internally and externally through the correct reporting mechanisms.

edie’s SDG 12 Spotlight report

With less than 10 years to meet the SDGs, action is still not happening at the speed or scale required – despite a groundswell of ambition and action from organisations of all sectors and sizes. 

edie’s SDG Spotlight reports map out exactly how the business community can collectively achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) through the scope of individual goals. Next up in this renewed series, we take a look at SDG 12 and ask: How can businesses of all sizes and sectors help to co-create a circular economy, promoting resource efficiency, energy efficiency and water stewardship? 

Click here to download the report.

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