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The United Nations’ 17 Goals in the 2030 Agenda and the future of accountants

17 GOALS UNITED NATIONS - Hamid-Reza Khoy, a Swiss auditor, sensitive to the environmental issue, tells us about the 17 Goals drawn up by the United Nations. Particularly, he focuses on what his profession and companies in general can do in order to achieve these goals.

What do you think about the 17 Goals that the United Nations have set as objectives that companies need to achieve?

I assume they are objectives that all companies should keep in mind, both for the sake of the planet and for the economic advantages that will arise by respecting these goals.

Why will companies benefit from achieving the 17 Goals?

Because customers or potential customers will pay attention to the company’s behaviour. There will always be more people sensitive to sustainability, and they will be interested in establishing relationships with companies that operate well in this area. The greater the number of achieved goals, the greater the amount of customers interested in doing business with the company.

Can the same concept be applied in the financial field?

Of course. Future investors will significantly belong to the z generation, which is very sensitive to the sustainability issue. During the evaluation of an investment, it will be crucial for them to consider which are the goals that the project to be evaluated has decided to implement and how.

Is it significant for a company to achieve all the 17 Goals?

Well, it would be great, but very difficult. Especially since there are 17 Goals, but 169 sub-objectives. In my opinion, what a company needs to do is outline which are the goals to work on and define concrete strategies to achieve them.

Given the current situation of companies, do you believe these projects can be implemented in terms of time?

I believe they are all achievable in the medium-long term. The most important thing to do is to outline the goals to achieve and establish concrete adjustment policies.

What are examples of concrete adjustments that a company can adopt?

There are several examples, and some of them have emerged because of the coronavirus pandemic. Companies could start by setting up a company machine fleet, evaluating hybrid or electric products as well. Companies could give their workers some incentives to use public transport to reach the workplace. Smartworking, where possible, could be promoted also in the future. Making conscious decisions on whether travelling out of the office is really necessary or not. In case of adjustments of offices or working establishments, it is crucial to opt for sustainable sites, for instance fueled by renewable energy. Not to be underestimated is also the choice of suppliers with a high sustainable footprint, who therefore in turn pursue the United Nations’ 17 Goals.

At an economic level, what impact do these adjustments have for the company?

Surely, at first companies will have to face higher costs, but I assume that already in the short-medium term they will benefit from them, even economically. This especially in view of what we said before regarding the choices of customers and investors. The more and the better the achieved goals will be, the more the company will benefit from them, compared to its competitors.

As an auditor, how does your profession fit into this aspect?

In my opinion,auditors, in addition to certifying the financial part of the accounts, will have to certify the achievement of the goals outlined by companies for sustainable development in the future. We will have the task of reporting the benchmarks to our customers and assess in which direction the company is going. This aspect will be essential also to suggest our customers if they are working properly or if strategies to be undertaken have to be revised. This leads us to an economic full print, thanks to which we can help companies to work on reducing emissions generated by their activity. These are all measurable elements, therefore data that my profession is able to certify.

Do you believe that in the future there will be a new professional figure dealing with this aspect or will auditors be dealing with it?

A new professional figure, more specialized in this sector, could definitely arise. However, I consider it an interesting challenge for our profession. I believe this is a game worth the candle for auditors.

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