ICAEW webinar identifies critical next steps in global sustainability transition

4 mins read

DigitalCFO Asia Newsroom | 7 April 2022

Hosted by ICAEW, the webinar, Beyond Green and Climate: Achieving the Global Sustainability Transition, brought business and thought leaders from around South-East Asia – including representatives from the UK Department for International Trade, the United Nations Environment Programme and World Bank – to contribute and collaborate on the sustainability agenda, discussing what more is needed in the global transition to net zero. 

Michael Izza, ICAEW Chief Executive Officer, kicked off the webinar by proposing a call to action to those in attendance, to lead by example by helping organisations adapt successfully, and transition to more sustainable business models in driving systemic change that is needed.

Datuk Tengku Muhammad Taufik, President and Group Chief Executive Officer at Petronas highlighted the perils that climate change has already caused to our world – more than 3.3 billion people living in a highly vulnerable climate context, and most recently in Malaysia, with floods having caused an estimated $1.5 billion in damages. He acknowledged the harsh reality that business as usual is no longer viable, and how Petronas is shifting from being a commodities player to becoming a more customer-centric solutions provider in helping customers decarbonise their energy systems. He concluded his speech calling for rapid collective action and coordinated collaboration to address the climate issue.

Following Datuk Tengku Taufik’s call for leaders to collaborate and work together on addressing the climate crisis. The event’s guest of honour, H.M. Deputy Trade Commissioner for APAC, Sam Myers, took the virtual stage to reiterate the United Kingdom government’s strong financial support to ASEAN nations to enable low carbon energy and sustainable economic development programmes. However, while the UK government continues to be ready to support ASEAN’s climate-centric initiatives, he also stated that the private sector has a key role to play, especially in plugging financing gaps that may exist as economies continue to pursue sustainability. 

Sam went on to discuss how the digital economy, and more specifically, digital trade, can help lower carbon-intensiveness of global trade routes which are a major contributor to global emissions.  He then called for leaders to combine their ambitions, commitments, and partnerships to tackle these issues together in his closing statement before handing the webinar over to the panel discussion.

The webinar convened a panel of key opinion leaders in the sustainability space, who represent some of the world’s leading organisations in championing sustainability: 

  • Datuk Tengku Muhammad Taufik, President and Group Chief Executive Officer, PETRONAS
  • Tatiana Didier, Senior Economist, World Bank
  • Trista Chen, Partner, APAC Regional M&A Services, Financial Sector and ESG/Sustainable finance Lead, ERM
  • Yuki Yasui ACA, Asia Pacific Co-ordination Manager, UNEP Finance Initiative, UN Environment

The panel discussed what truly is needed to achieve the global sustainability transition, with Datuk Tengku Taufik speaking at length on Petronas’ own experience in shifting from being an oil and gas business to one that’s seen as an energy and solutions provider as an imperative in dealing with the climate issue. However, a major issue for the global business community in transitioning to sustainability, is financing, which the panel delves into next. 

Tatiana Didier led the discussion on sustainability financing and, brought up the issue of transition risk – such as risk that arise from potential policy change, the incorporation of new technologies, shift in consumer preference, and even changes to investor expectations – that businesses need to pay mind to as they pivot towards more sustainable policy. She raised a point that while there are enormous investment opportunities that come with this stage of transition, the financial sector plays a crucial role in mobilising finance during this transition. However, in doing so she emphasises that companies need to grow aware of the associated risk that comes with these new investments companies are making, prioritising resilience as an enabler to growth towards their sustainability goals.

Trista Chen, then added on, sharing her knowledge of financing mechanisms to progress investments into the sustainability space. She clarified that the role of financing does not just fall squarely on the shoulders of the public sector, but requires a joint effort by both the public and private sectors. She implored the C-suite in corporate companies to be proactive in being the catalysts for the transition, tapping on the broad range of financial instruments available in funding these new investments – especially in Asia, where a synchronised definition for sustainable finance is yet to exist.

The final question posed by the audience, queried panelists on what advice they have for young ACA members who wish to explore their career options in the ESG industry, given that a universal sustainability framework does not yet exist. Datuk Tengku Muhammad Taufik opined that much of what these members do in their work is to understand business models, and build around the controls, assurances and transparency around how a company creates values, and from there recommend areas that can incorporate more sustainable practices. 

Trista encouraged young ACA members to understand the industry at large, examining their own personal interests, finding out what excites them as a means of finding a role that excites them – especially since there are many roles to play in the industry and the transition that it’s on, its important in working out which part or role one wishes to play.

In concluding the webinar, Yuki Yasui reminded everyone present that we have a part to play in sustainability, and that if one is truly passionate about the cause, then there will always be a role that he or she can play, and in turn, also contribute back to the growing profession of accountancy.

“The world now accepts that climate change is the biggest single challenge we face, and that we all have a responsibility to address it.” said Michael Izza, ICAEW Chief Executive Officer. “We’re at a critical point in history, and that we should all understand that the way we do business will have profound implications for our health, the natural world, and ultimately, the long-term sustainability of our planet.” 

ICAEW is committed to being at the forefront of dialogue and driving actions that contribute towards sustainability. The Institute continues to provide support to its members by offering a wide range of products, services, events, information and resources. It has strengthened its partnerships with leading professional firms to develop guidance on sustainability reporting and climate action for businesses such as the ICAEW Climate Hub and ICAEW Global Goals Hub, which host relevant resources that promotes sustainable business practices and offers inspiration and tools to contribute towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

To watch the recording on demand, please click here.