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Accountants want to be in the loop as triple bottom line work grows

ACCOUNTANTS want a foot in the door of the lucrative new industry emerging around triple bottom line reporting, according to Institute of Chartered Account-ants in Australia national president, and BDO Accountants managing partner, Geoff Brayshaw.

Accountants have, by and large, been left out of the loop by the growing number of companies seeking to measure not only their financials, but also the company’s environmental and social out-comes.

“The accounting profession has a very clear framework of how you can go about providing assurance over what people want to report,” Mr Brayshaw told an Australian Corporate Citizenship Alliance briefing in Perth last week.

“There are pretty fixed standards of how an audit is to be processed. Any triple bottom line reporting is going to need expert advice.

“In that area I think there is a framework that the accounting profession has and how it can relate the audit and assurance functions. It has all those standards in place.

“That is why I think the accounting profession should take a lead and use its capabilities, certainly in the auditing area.”

But Mr Brayshaw said that, while a framework was important, any reporting had to be constructed to meet the needs of the audience or stakeholders.

“You have got to know what you want to do, you’ve got to know who are your stakeholders, you have got to know what kind of information is available and you’ve got to know what kind of measurements to use,” he said.

“One group of stakeholders wants dollars and cents. Another group of stakeholders is interested in reputation issues.

“It is rather difficult for any company or profession to know exactly what to do. I think the important thing is to ask yourself what is right for that company and what may be right for that group of companies in the same industries.”

Mr Brayshaw dismisses the notion that all environmental and social impacts of an industry or company should be converted into financial information.

“The problem is a lot of people think that unless you can convert it into dollars and cents then really there is no value. I disagree with that concept,” he said.

“To try to put everything in dollars and cents and try to have three sets of numbers and say this is your triple bottom line profit I think is dangerous.”

Mr Brayshaw also reserved criticism for the short sightedness of the stockbroking industry, which had failed to look beyond the financial balance sheet.

“Stockbrokers are only interested in the dollars and cents. What can be made over the next three months is all the stockbrokers are interested in,” he said.

“One day they will get run over by community concerns and people will take it into their own hands and people will start avoiding the stockbrokers.

“Only then they (the stock-brokers) will learn.”

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