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Accountants eye opportunities in new sustainability requirements

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Malta Institute of Accountants holds Biennial Conference

The Malta Institute of Accountants set the ball rolling about corporate sustainability reporting with the Biennial Conference held on 22 September 2021. The event attracted accountancy and auditing professionals as well as specialists in other key business areas to learn about a new framework proposed by the European Commission that will standardise non-financial reporting for a section of the private sector.

The theme of the conference ‘A New Mindset – Reduce. Reuse. Report.’ set the tone for a discussion about the need for change in the way businesses assess their impacts and the role of professionals to guide companies on matters relating to the environment, social issues, and governance (ESG).

“Sustainability has practical implications for our personal lives and business success,” said MIA President Fabio Axisa in his introduction to the event. “We might, at times, feel detached from ESG issues and think that an island like Malta will not be affected by changes in this direction, the stark reality cannot be any more different:”

Mr Axisa said there is increasing awareness about ESG matters in the investor community as well as the wider public, adding that effective reporting is crucial to driving this transformation: “The proposals by the EU seek to achieve comparability and consistency in assurance reports on sustainability.”

The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive requires a category of companies to disclose information on their actions and impacts on social and environmental issues. Addressing the MIA event, European Commission Team Leader Thomas Dodd, said that new directives reflect a growing need that is felt in society, industries, and the professions.

Accountancy Europe CEO Mr Olivier Boutellis-Taft urged participants at the conference to be ready to lead a change in corporate mentality. He commended the MIA for putting the focus “where it should be” and said that, while it is the responsibility of policymakers to make the right choices, decisions must be based on accurate information.

The conference was addressed by a prestigious lineup of experts from Malta and other jurisdictions, among them Prime Minister Robert Abela and Opposition Leader Bernard Grech. The programme included top officials from local and European regulators in the financial services sector as well as representatives of the business community and relevant sectors.

International specialists from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, CORE Europe Direct Centre, International Federation of Accountants, and Big 4 International and Local Sustainability Champions also took part in the conference as guest speakers and panellists.

The CEO of the Institute, Maria Cauchi Delia, said that accountants and auditors are well-placed to guide decision-makers on sustainability reporting issues and that the new requirements open new opportunities for the profession.

“The new proposed directive extends its catchment area to cover all large companies, supporting investors’ increasing demands for sustainable reporting as well as holding these companies accountable to society at large,” said Ms Cauchi Delia. She added that the MIA is taking an active role in raising the subject matter on the agenda and is providing feedback on proposals to relevant stakeholders as well as helping members to understand and adapt to the proposed changes.

The Biennial Conference was the first event open to non-members of the MIA since the start of the pandemic. The programme complied fully with the safety precautions issued by health authorities.

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