28 June 2012  – The issue of sustainability for chartered accountants in Australia was a “massive topic”, but it meant different things to different people, The Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia Sustainability and Regional Australia manager Geraldine Magarey told delegates at RMIT University’s recent Accounting for Sustainability Conference.

“We believe very firmly in the idea that the institute and its members have an important role in the community,” Ms Margarey said.

“The notion of giving back to the community is very ingrained in the mindset of chartered accountants.”

However, acting for the greater good and in the public interest “sometimes puts us at odds with our members,” she said. “Sometimes we take a stance on an issue which we believe is in the public interest but segments of the membership don’t necessarily agree with.”

Meanwhile, the environmental footprint of the Institute was “not particularly big”, she said.

“Our head office in Sydney was refurbished in 2007 with the intention of keeping our emissions low. Our main emissions are connected to travel.”

The institute had recently installed video conferencing facilities in all its offices to help reduce travel related emissions and it had set a carbon emission target on which it reports annually.

A “green group” within staff identified ways to reduce the organisation’s footprint further and was also exploring how to reduce waste related to food.

Ms Magerey said on the education front, the institute was working with CPA Australia and the Institute of Public Accountants to attract 1000 indigenous accountants to the profession in a decade along with establishing a scholarship fund to assist marginalised and disadvantaged Australians who demonstrate an interest in accounting and have a financial need.

“Another area where the Institute and chartered accountants in general have an important role to play is around capacity building,” she said.

“Our not-for-profit guide provides valued guidance on annual and financial reporting for the NFP sector.”

The institute was also a member of different organisations which had a sustainability focus, she said.

They included the International Federation of Accountants and the Prince of Wales Accounting for Sustainability Project along with being a signatory to the UN Global Compact.

Ms Magarey said the institute had also produced a number of pieces of guidance in the past 12 months with a focus on sustainability designed to assist members who are looking to embark on their own sustainability journey.