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ICAEW: our roadmap for carbon neutrality

17 September: Chief Executive Michael Izza outlines ICAEW’s commitment to become carbon-neutral, making it the first major professional body in the UK to declare carbon neutrality.

I am excited and proud to announce that ICAEW is transforming into a carbon-neutral organisation.

Climate change is the single most important challenge the world faces and fundamental action is necessary to tackle it. Businesses have a moral and environmental duty to lead by example and economic prosperity depends on a thriving planet.

Over the past five years at ICAEW, our internal initiatives have already reduced our carbon footprint by 20% - with a continuing downward trajectory.

Now, our commitment to become carbon-neutral marks the next significant step and makes us the first major professional body in the UK to declare carbon neutrality.

How are we doing this?

We will be implementing several internal carbon-reducing projects during the coming years, which in themselves will reduce our emissions by 20% by 2025, and 40% by 2030.

In addition, we will immediately be purchasing carbon offsets against our entire annual greenhouse gas emissions.

We know that there are very valid questions about the practice of offsetting. That is why we have comprehensively reviewed the offset market and identified projects and schemes which help to deliver against some of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), of which we are long-standing supporters. We explored a number of options for offsetting, focussing on transparency, veracity of certification and quality of reporting. Ultimately, we want to see measurable and trackable outcomes and sound assurance mechanisms in any schemes we are contributing to.

We also know that offsetting is only a shorter-term solution and that embedding changes to our operations at institute level, and to our behaviours at an individual level, will make the biggest difference in the long-term. Therefore, we have undertaken comprehensive research to decide what policies and initiatives we need to implement. These include reductions in overseas travel and increasing our use of technology for meetings and conferences, and will be documented and evaluated in an ongoing case study. As these are implemented, they will constitute an ever-larger proportion of our carbon-reduction activities, reducing our dependence on offsetting.

In any event, we want to be ambitious – for our institute and more importantly for the environment – so we are also expanding the scope of our carbon reduction beyond that of many other organisations, by including employee commuting in our carbon footprint. This, of course, means taking account of emission levels over which we have no direct control, and thus will depend in part upon the actions of public transport networks and others – highlighting the importance of interdependency and collaboration.

A continuing agenda

This is not a new area of focus for ICAEW.

We have increasingly placed the UN SDGs at the heart of our strategy and actively encouraged our members to do the same in their businesses (for more information on our SDG activities visit our Global Goals Hub).

We already disclose our carbon emissions annually through the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) and every four years to ESOS. We also support the FSB Task Force for Climate-related Disclosures and host the Capitals Coalition. Climate change and sustainability are also already embedded into many modules of our ACA syllabus, and we recently signed the Green Finance Education Charter, committing us to building green finance into our qualifications.

This is now about moving from individual, targeted sustainability initiatives, to something that holistically impacts our main business, driven at our most senior levels and intrinsically connected to the everyday activity of all of our employees.

We know that many across the profession are already setting significant carbon reduction targets and investing heavily to achieve them, and hope that our move to carbon neutrality will encourage others to accelerate their own sustainability agendas.


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