Embedding Sustainability into Practice – The CPA Journal

Our latest issue is all about sustainability, often defined as long-term value creation. For New York State CPAs, that sustainability can show up in various ways—including Environmental, Social, and Governance. To remain relevant as a profession, we must find ways to naturally embed sustainable practices into our businesses, firms, and client work. I hope you enjoy our discussion on this topic, in all of its facets.

Just a decade ago, the concept of ESG did not seem to be as prevalent in the public consciousness. The concept of ESG is far from new, however, and CPAs should lead the way in embedding sustainable practices in our workplaces, wherever they may be. And we should be looking to enhance the ESG outlook of our clients and colleagues. After all, CPAs are often charged with managing, reviewing, and operating the financial and operational facets of a business.

The time is now. Regulatory bodies such as the SEC are looking to enhance and standardize reporting in ESG areas such as climate-related disclosures. But whether ESG becomes mandated or not, enhancing our focus on it is not just the right thing to do; it’s good business.

In one of my prior roles, when I was the CFO of a community college in Baltimore, I initially did not even consider ESG to be part of my job. Candidly, I was just focused on the financial “bottom line” (sound familiar?). But in that role, I overlook more than just the financial departments of accounts receivable, general accounting, and budget. I also was responsible for nonfinancial activities such as the campus facilities and grounds, police department, bookstore, and even the radio station (no, I never spoke on the air).

Suddenly, ESG concerns were a big focus of mine, especially with a campus community that, rightfully so, wanted to understand what its college was doing to support environmentally sustainable practices. With an engaged student body, social and governance concerns were frequently top of mind for me.

All in all, being mindful and intentional towards ESG concepts played a large part in that CFO role, even though no standardized reporting was broadly required, or even commonly prepared voluntarily, in the higher education space at that time.

Are you wondering how to better embed sustainability or ESG concepts into your work life? Well, your Society is here to support you.

For lifetime education, please remember the Foundation for Accounting Education (FAE). FAE provides lifelong continuing education to CPAs in its wide selection of courses in accounting, auditing, taxation, industry-specific topics, ethics, and advisory services in multiple formats.

Of course, as CPAs, we are required to complete continuing professional education to maintain our license. The importance of this requirement is that it allows us to remain relevant to our clients, colleagues, and stakeholders, and helps ensure that we create long-term value for our communities. It also helps to cultivate and maintain a sustainable work environment.

In many ways, sustainability is embedded in the Society itself, even if we may not think of it in that way. For more than 125 years, the NYSSCPA has advocated for our members and the accounting profession. Recently, I was reminded that when the Society was first founded, electricity was just clicked on in New York just five years earlier, and Teddy Roosevelt was still the New York City Police Commissioner. Through all the changes in the world, and the profession, over the years, your Society has strived to maintain a sustainable presence.

Whether it’s protecting the licensing quality of fellow and future CPAs, ensuring that CPAs are the ones whom the SEC looks to for providing financial audits services for the public, and educating and training our members through our various publications (including this one), as well as organizing conferences and events, submitting comment letters to regulators, and just maintaining the public trust of the profession, your Society remains a sustainable presence.

What’s next in the sustainability space? I encourage you to find out by reading this issue, which includes articles on ESG reporting, how CFOs can influence ESG, and how CPAs can assist integrating ESG concepts into even small businesses.

I hope that you enjoy the vital topics in this issue, and I look forward to continuous engagement on ESG and sustainability. It is where the world already is, and where we as CPAs should strive to lead.

For the profession,

Calvin Harris, CPA (MD). NYSSCPA/CEO.

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