As per my previous post about the invitation to a member of the UAE delegation to discuss COP27, the ICAEW Climate Change Summit continues to delight and infuriate, possibly in equal measure,
The ICAEW has introduced a Sustainability Certificate, available to members who undertake a 15-hour (!) course at a cost of £225 + VAT. I have had the very positive experience of attending ICAEW courses on effective writing (which critical readers may regard as less than fully effective!) and forensic accounting, so I know how high quality their courses can be. As can be seen from my e-mail below, my issue here is not with quality but quantity ………
“Dear Ms Cook
I am following up on my Q&A comment during the Climate Change upskilling session.
We have developed a bookkeeping system for our clients that is compliant with SECR and TCFD, as well as with the requirements of carbon reduction consultants. We also offer our clients what we refer to as Sustainability First Steps, which is advice to help them start out on their journey to carbon zero, provided by our (non-accountant) sustainability specialist and involving referrals to trusted experts who can supply the expertise that we do not have in house.
The three senior personnel involved in sustainability have years of experience and background in researching ‘green’ issues and assisting clients in respect of sustainability. We flatter ourselves that in the small firm marketplace (there are 7 of us) we offer an unparalleled service in this area, having done the hard yards over a long period to develop our expertise.
Not content with that, our sustainability expert and I are currently undertaking a Level 2 Certificate in Understanding Climate Change, which to give you some idea of the complexity of the subject and the amount of work required to master it is a 110-hour course, which in our case is building on solid knowledge and experience gathered over a period of years.
The idea that a 15-hour course can equip accountants with sufficient knowledge to be let loose on clients to give sustainability advice is frankly ludicrous – that barely gives time to scratch the surface of a complex, fast-developing and vital area. The fact that you are then going to issue those accountants with a Certificate that says they are competent to issue such advice appears to me to be rash in the extreme, giving them a misleading sense of competence in the area (thus infringing the “don’t undertake work that you are not competent to do” ethical framework), holding them out inaccurately to the public as being competent to give sustainability advice, muddying the waters unforgivably for firms like ourselves which have a genuine and deep knowledge of sustainability and, to be quite honest, constituting greenwashing by suggesting a level of competence in the profession that long experience tells me is not present, and will not be after a mere 15 hours of training.
The Institute needs to seriously re-think its CPE strategy in this area, which is fatally flawed as it currently stands. I also note that you charge members £225 + VAT for the course leading to the certificate, whereas I can tell you that the 110-hour course we are undertaking is offered free by our local Further Education College through links with the local Chamber of Commerce. So not only is the ICAEW seriously misleading participants as to the level of competence that will be instilled, it is also ripping them off into the bargain.
I have to say that in 39 years in accountancy, including 36 as a qualified ACA, I have never been so ashamed of the ICAEW, or indeed any professional organisation I have been involved with. I am seriously considering whether it is worth renewing my membership, which is a state of affairs that I never expected to arise. This is also partly because I already had an issue with the first session, which I have taken up with Sarah Reay, around inviting a member of the delegation with by far the largest number of fossil fuel delegates to provide the summary of COP27. Is it too much to ask an organisation with the prestige and illustrious history of the ICAEW to take sustainability seriously, please?
The Green Accountants
Big Hand Group”
As I did with the COP27 issue, I will publish the ICAEW’s reply and my response as a separate post for ease of reading and to avoid this post being long and confusing.