4 steps to a sustainable recovery from Covid-19

August 6, 2020

Published. Accountancy Europe

By Olivier Boutellis-Taft

The economy is in a bad shape. Our ecosystems and climate are in an even worse shape.

During the global lockdowns we saw a massive drop in carbon emissions, but I fear that we will go back to normal, or perhaps even worse once the pandemic has passed. After all, during the financial crisis, we saw global CO2 emissions shrink 1.4% in 2009, but they had already grown by 5.1% in 2010.

The last thing we need for a sustainable recovery is going back to business as usual. This is why Accountancy Europe calls for structural change in Coronacrisis: lessons for a more sustainable future.

Here are 4 ideas for a sustainable recovery

1. Improve resilience and risk management, especially in SMEs

SMEs are the main part of the fabric of our economy. When they go under, society suffers and when they are not sustainable, we all pay the price. Accountants have the multidisciplinary expertise to help businesses of all sizes. They assess their financial and non-financial impacts and risks and upgrade their risk management programs. As this is especially relevant for SMEs, we are stimulating accountants to help their SME clients through our SME risk management series.

2. Move to a circular economy

The only sustainable economy would be a circular economy. This means that most companies need to change their business models. Corporate governance is an essential driver of this transition. The cogito publication 10 ideas to make corporate governance a driver of a sustainable economy sets out what boards and regulators can do to redefine how businesses are run.

3. The public sector needs to change too

Professional accountants working in the public sector are an important part of our membership. We just issued Coronacrisis: actions for the public sector with ideas on how the public sector can counter the crisis’ impact on the short and long term.

Accountants will have to help leveraging public finance to make the necessary investment in our health systems.

A lot of subsidies are being distributed: accountants must control that they are used as intended, and they will need to measure their efficiency.

With the prospect of growing debt in highly uncertain circumstances, we need to stress test government borrowing, which requires proper financial information.

In addition to policy and support, the public sector can represent up to 50% of the economy in Europe. It is also time for the public sector to lead by example and integrate financial and non-financial performance.

4. Lobbyists need to change and support a truly transformative EU agenda in the public interest

I admire the EC’s courage in leading a sustainable recovery and the voices in the EP who promote this objective. However, if the Member States rush back to business as usual, stimulating car sales and unconditionally subsidising airlines, we will not have the necessary strategic alignment to transform our economy. The private sector also needs to align. Praising the EC objectives, while slowing down change will not make us sustainable in due time and we will collectively pay too big a price. We are all on the same unique planet.

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