Industry Research Needed On Corporate Sustainability Reporting

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Prime Minister Freundel Stuart (centre) with Chairman of CGA-Canada, Terry LeBlanc (left) and President of CGA Caribbean, Hank Lucas, at the conference. (A. Miller/BGIS)??

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has urged the Certified General Accountant’s (CGA) Association of the Caribbean, to "walk in the footsteps" of their Canadian counterparts, and conduct research in the area of Corporate Sustainability Reporting.

He threw out this challenge today while addressing participants at the CGA’s International Sustainability Conference at Hilton Barbados.

The Prime Minister said such a study was critical to capacity building and a greater understanding of the applicability of various methodologies, such as the Global Reporting Initiative and the new ISO 26 000 standard.

"Your umbrella association, through its professional development programmes, can perhaps consider satisfying this need," Mr. Stuart noted.

He acknowledged that government had been paying close attention to the twin challenges of climate change and the economic downturn, and it had formulated several policy responses as a means of "mitigating effects and strengthening our social and economic resilience to such challenges, while at the same time, identifying opportunities for growth and further development".

Mr. Stuart maintained that some of the key policy initiatives that were pertinent for discussion during the conference included: rising energy costs and the need for energy conservation and renewable energy development; the crafting of specific enabling policies and financial facilities to support the expansion of public investment incentives to support the transition to sustainable production; greater participation of the financial sector in enabling national development; and the need for enhanced private sector investment and greater emphasis on corporate social responsibility.

Akin to these objectives, the Prime Minister revealed that progress had been made on these issues as it related to the approval of a National Policy Framework through the Infrastructure Committee of Cabinet; the establishment of a Sustainable Energy Framework which is financed by the Global Environmental Facility and the Inter-American Development Bank; and the establishment of a Barbados Sustainable Finance Group.

In addition, he also praised the social partnership and, in particular, the commitment of all the players in Protocol VI to embrace the tenets of the Barbados Programme of Action and to "chart a path of an advanced green country in Latin America and the Caribbean".

"The Protocol is yet another example of the national will to move the environment discourse to the centre of the national development debate…I wish to commend our labour and business leaders for their foresight," he underlined.

Lamenting that some businesses were still reluctant to adopt environment-related issues in their business models, the Prime Minister lauded companies such as the Rum Refinery at Mount Gay, the Arawak Cement Company Limited, Foursquare Rum Distillery and Heritage Park, and Barbados Bottlers Limited, in attaining the 14 000 designation for institutionalising Environmental Management Systems.

On the other hand, Mr. Stuart added that enterprises are also repositioning themselves to benefit from potential opportunities from evolving niche markets in environment related fields such as solar power, energy efficiency and water conservation.

In light of this, he alluded to the role which the accounting profession could play in this regard. "The accounting profession is ideally placed to assist the Caribbean region in valuing and pricing the environmental and social costs that attach to this or that policy decision, as called for by the report of the Global Panel on Sustainability.

"Integrating the ???Triple Bottom Line’ in Annual Financial Reports is on the rise in other parts of the world.?? Accountants are key actors in this development; and it is possible then for the CGA and other bodies within the accounting fraternity to partner with regional and national associations in piloting such an initiative," Mr. Stuart asked.

julie.carrington@barbados.gov.bb

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