Our world is based on nested dependencies (see work by Bob Doppelt, Peter Senge as well as Bob Willard). The environment is all-encompassing with society being nested in the environment and in turn business being nested within the environment and society.
I have often used a quote from Björn Stigson, former President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) – it is as follows: “Business cannot succeed in societies that fail. Likewise, where and when business is stifled, societies fail to thrive.”
Societies can fail due to economic, social and/or environmental reasons so a balance and a relationship among these elements needs to be understood in order to achieve real wealth creation today and for future generations.
Being a father of three children, I tend to have a future-oriented focus. What will the world be like in the years ahead for my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren?
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I am fortunate that my role at Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) allows me to explore, develop and test forward-thinking ideas that can help position the accounting profession to effectively address sustainability issues. As Peter Bakker, current President of WBCSD, has famously stated on numerous occasions “Accountants will save the world.” The competencies of professional accountants can be invaluable to organizations seeking to be more sustainable.
I had the fortune of meeting Paul Hawken, author of “The Ecology of Commerce”, and I asked him: “Do sustainability issues need to be measured in order to be effectively managed?” Paul’s response was “Yes, they need to be measured in order to be managed but they do not need to be monetized in order to be managed.”
Organizations, no matter their size or the sector in which they operate, can benefit by focusing on sustainability. The practice can help to better identify and understand key risks, opportunities and stakeholders. Effective measurement then allows the organization to determine if its goals are being achieved.
I live in Winnipeg and the city provides an excellent example of a sustainability effort. A website that was developed with resources from the International Institute of Sustainable Development and United Way Winnipeg is called MyPeg (www.mypeg.ca). This website provides the user with economic, environmental and social data about Winnipeg in order to track and inspire transformation to a more vibrant and thriving city. Having the necessary data accessible in order to measure and manage sustainability initiatives is critical for success but what is ultimately required is action. However, to achieve the goal of a more vibrant city, the strategies and visions of residents, community groups, business leaders, politicians and others must align. Society, business and the environment are always interconnected.
For many organizations, taking that first step toward sustainable practices and management is often difficult. I am glad to be part of a profession that is actively trying to help organizations focus on sustainability and effectively address the challenges that lie ahead.
CPA Canada’s Director for Research, Guidance and Support Todd Scaletta, MBA, CMA, FCMA, C.Dir, has over 30 years of management accounting experience in various sectors including construction, education, financial services, not-for-profit and real estate. Todd leads the conceptualization, formulation, and distribution of Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada)’s research related to sustainability. Todd represents CPA Canada on the Accounting Bodies Network (ABN), International Federation of Accountants Committee (IFAC)’s Professional Accountants in Business (PAIB), and the Consortium for Advanced Management – International (CAM-I) Sustainability Interest Group. He has written articles on sustainability from a management accountant’s perspective and has presented at several international conferences throughout North America on the subject of environmental sustainability.
This blog is part of the ‘Voices of New Economies‘ series within Cities for People – an experiment in advancing the movement toward urban resilience and livability through connecting innovation networks.
The Voices of New Economies series is collectively curated by One Earth and The Canadian CED Network.
This series is an exploration of what it takes to build the economies we need – ones that work for people, places, and the planet. We are connecting key actors, finding patterns, noting interesting differences, and highlighting key concepts and initiatives. Together, this series offers insights into the new economies movement as it develops.