Sustainability disclosures could come in this year, minister tells AAT audience 

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Companies “across the economy” would be affected, the Treasury Minister announced at AAT’s new strategy launch.

Treasury Minister Baroness Penn was keynote speaker as AAT launched promoted its new strategy Securing Future Relevance at the Houses of Parliament. She signalled new green finance regulations could be introduced this year that will lead to companies “across the economy” reporting on sustainability. The Baroness also used the occasion to call on more accountancy firms to back the Women In Finance Charter, which she and AAT have helped pioneer. 

Government backs responsible business 

Baroness Penn welcomed the fact that responsible business is one of three pillars in AAT’s strategy to 2030, along with keeping the profession relevant and driving up professional standards.  

As minister responsible for the Government’s Green Finance Strategy, she promised further action this year to follow the introduction of mandatory reporting in line with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures.  

“We plan to build on this with new Sustainability Disclosure Requirements and they will see businesses across the economy reporting consistent sustainability information that will incorporate into national standards such as those being developed by the global-based International Financial Reporting Standards foundation.” 

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The IFRS’s standards are expected later this year. If the Government adopts them, there will be keen interest in the size of companies that will be required to report, and whether the public sector will be required to comply. 

The baroness also called on more organisations to support the Women In Finance Charter, for which she is responsible. 

“AAT was the first accountancy body to sign up to the charter and [has] met its original target of 50% women in senior management positions ahead of schedule. 

“I am keen to see greater representation of accountancy and other professional services as part of the charter.”  

The charter still has fewer than 30 firms in professional services, including accountancy.  

AAT emphasising social mobility 

In launching AAT’s strategy, CEO Sarah Beale stressed our resolve to open up accountancy to all.  

“As a professional membership organisation, we can enact and inspire societal change, both through our own business activity and by demonstrating leadership in our community and across the profession. 

“AAT will continue to fight the perspective that the profession is only open to the privileged, where access can only be gained through a rigid, exclusive and [possibly] elitist route.” 

She told the assembled stakeholders how AAT will pursue its priorities and gave a flavour of what action would look like. 

“We will push for greater levels of funding to improve access to apprenticeships and vocational qualifications – properly establishing parity for FE. 

“We will continue to campaign for a requirement that all paid-for tax advisers and accountants are members of a recognised professional body and we will develop a pathway for those currently unqualified and unregulated to be able to join our community.  

“We will continue to push for a simpler, fairer and more effective tax system and for tax policy reform that supports growth amongst small businesses. And by 2030 we will have raised levels of awareness and engagement in the global sustainability agenda.” 

Leading the way on apprenticeships

The Parliamentary reception was hosted by former Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Labour MP Sir Stephen Timms, who warmly welcomed AAT’s strategy. He particularly praised AAT’s work to increase social mobility through apprenticeships. 

“I am pleased to see [AAT’s] use of apprenticeships to bring people into the profession. It’s the kind of imaginative and creative approach we need to overcome recruitment difficulties.” 

He added that America was looking to follow the lead of professional apprenticeships. 

“The kind of apprenticeship that they particularly want to see in the USA are the kind provided by AAT,” he commented. 

AAT Comment offers news and opinion on the world of business and finance from the Association of Accounting Technicians.

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