The Prince of Wales challenged global business leaders to “help save the world” at a sustainability summit last week.
Speaking at the Accounting for Sustainability (A4S) Summit, His Royal Highness said there would be dire consequences if the current state of affairs continued.
“Frankly, the older I get the more and more anxious I become – no matter which way you look at it, the sums just do not add up,” he said.
The Prince assured the audience that he had done his part for sustainability by walking to the summit before setting out the steps the finance and accounting community need to take over the coming decade.
While he began by stressing the fact that he was not an accountant, The Prince said: “I presume you are not just here out of curiosity as to what I might say next, so I hope I can call on your help to take forward the good work that has been done so far and find ways to make sustainability part of the DNA of every finance leader and accountant on the planet.”
Around 250 senior figures from major corporations and future finance leaders, including British supermarkets Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer, attended the event at the Institute Of Directors in Pall Mall, London.
The Prince told the room: "Go out and seek to convince your peers. In this regard, the team of accountants at A4S has highlighted some rather interesting numbers to me.
“I understand – and I assume a team of accountants must be right – that if every one of you here in the room today manages to convince just five others to start accounting for sustainability, and then each one of them engages another five each year, in five years’ time we could reach all of the three million accountants in the world!
“However, I hate to tell you that for obvious reasons five years is too long – so each of you needs to rush out and convince 10. And then accountants really will be helping to save the world.”
The Prince hosted his A4S summit to celebrate its 10th anniversary and the progress it has made since its inception.
John Rogers, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at Sainsbury’s, said he hoped the summit would create genuine results. He said: “We’ve got some very real, practical tools we would like take forward.”
A spokeswoman for the Project said that, historically, accountants have “very much been focused on the financial”.
She said: “Increasingly they are looking more and more about how the environmental and social issues can be applied… to really understand how they can look at the link between those different issues and understand what they can do differently”.
Jessica Fries, Executive Chairman of A4S, said at the summit: "Over the 10 years since our launch we have worked to dispel the idea that there has to be a choice between making money on one hand and ‘doing the right thing’ on the other.
“Making business decisions which are designed to build resilient business models will inevitably lead to a more sustainable economy. However time is not on our side. We have achieved a lot in 10 years but there is still a great deal of work to do.”