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Business leaders split on idea of unleashing ‘warrior accountants’ on ESG issues

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“As a signatory to it ourselves, we know that the only way for it to succeed at any speed is through careful, deliberate reporting and measurement,” she said. “As we’ve seen when it comes to gender diversity on boards, the act of merely publishing data can help accelerate progress, because it can bring to bear public awareness and pressure.”

The CPA Ontario report lays out some real-word examples of the role accountants can play in the evolving ESG landscape, such as the creation of a new position — the manager of finance and sustainability — at meat processor Maple Leaf Foods, to “bridge the gap” between the two functions within the company.

Pooja Patel, who holds that job, told the report’s authors that her responsibility is to integrate Maple Leaf’s sustainability data and reporting into the company’s financial reporting and control analysis.

She also helped incorporate an internal price on carbon in the company’s capital purchases approval process, according to the report.

Despite this and other examples of steps taken by Canadian corporations — such as TD Bank tracking the number of home mortgages extended to low-income people and surveying company-wide progress on retrofitting ATMs to improve access for people with disabilities — Canada is lagging behind several other geographies when it comes to reporting on environmental, social, and governance issues, according to the CPA Ontario report. Among those leading the pack are Europe, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

“The United States is something of a laggard, and Canada falls in between,” the report says.

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