Open letter calls for SME support to achieve sustainable development goals

UK government pressed to show leadership and create an economic environment that helps businesses transform how they operate

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An open letter from eleven accountancy and finance bodies has called on the UK government to “show global leadership and take decisive action to put us back on track,” after the UN reported just 12% progress towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) deadline.

The letter, signed by chief executives of Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland, was sent as the 78th United National General Assembly gathers in New York this week.

It follows the recent release of the UN Sustainable Development Goals Progress Report that says the world is on track to meet only 12% of the UNSDGs. It claims some progress has been made on 50% of the goals, but they are still way off target – while 30% have stalled or actually made negative progress.

Urging importance of net zero

The letter emphasises the importance of working on domestic net zero commitments with a clear policy framework to help businesses accelerate innovation and investment.

ICAEW has called for specific support for SMEs to make climate-positive changes to their operation while they continue to battle a challenging economic landscape.

“Business as usual is no longer an option,” says Richard Spencer, ICAEW’s head of sustainability. “We must create an economic environment that ensures businesses can transform how they operate to include their impact on people and the planet.

“This must be done through adequate fiscal policy, providing the right incentives and support for businesses, particularly SMEs, to transition to a net-zero, nature-positive future.

“This should include considerations for the current and future skills of the workforce. We need to keep fairness and justice at the heart of the transition on the international stage and hold developed nations to account on their financial commitments to developing nations.”

More support necessary

According to the UN’s report, the UK is on course to meet just 17% of targets. The letter says the UK must also keep its commitments to be “nature positive by 2030 and to align the activities of our institutions and finance system with this goal.”

Last month, the government launched the UK Business Climate hub to help Britain’s 5.5 million SMEs save on their business energy bills while reducing their emissions.

While such efforts are a move in the right direction, the research published by the UN shows there is still a significant way to go in the UK – and SMEs can be an important contribution to success if supported in the right way.

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Kirstie Pickering - business journalist

Kirstie is a freelance journalist writing in the tech, startup and business spaces for publications including Sifted, TNW, UKTN, The Business Magazine and Maddyness UK. She also works closely with agencies such as CEW Communications to develop content for their startup and scaleup clients.

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