London Climate Action Week: Spotlight on Female Leaders in the City

Q&A with Veronica Poole, Partner at Deloitte and UK Head of Accounting and Corporate Reporting.

To celebrate the 1st London Climate Action Week, CDSB is profiling a select number of female leaders in the City who we consider to be at the forefront of taking action on climate change and related issues. In this Q&A we sit down with Veronica Poole, Partner at Deloitte and UK Head of Accounting and Corporate Reporting.

1. What inspired you to embrace climate change in your current role? What advice would you give to those looking to pursue a similar path in their organisation? 

Two things really moved me to put climate change centre stage. One was the report of the IPCC and the stark reality it sets out. The second was a diving holiday in the Maldives with my children – the bleached rocks where there should have been vibrant corals were a rude awakening. What are we leaving to our children?

I have three pieces of advice for others. Start by familiarising yourself with some of the science, to be informed on the issues – the IPCC report is a very good start. Given that finance is central to all companies, use your position as a finance professional to understand risks and the potential financial impact in your organisation. Our new learning programme, launched in collaboration with the ICAEW and supported by CDSB, is designed to help. Make it personal and act now - the science tells us that the window of opportunity is closing rapidly. We all need to act and we only have a small number of years to solve an unprecedented challenge to stop the irreversible damage to our planet. 

2. Why are climate and ESG factors so important for those working in your sector today?

In my role, I help our clients and our practitioners to navigate the constantly evolving global standards, regulation and practice. Transition to a low carbon economy will affect every single one of our clients - no one will be immune. Companies will need to implement change, manage risk and take advantage of the new opportunities in order to protect value and future proof their businesses. It’s an existential threat that demands urgent attention, so there can be no more ‘business as usual’.

The accounting profession is in a unique and critically important position - not only as trusted advisors to the boards of companies, but also as auditors that challenge the information companies report. Transparent and clear climate and broader ESG information is critical in order for investors to understand how resilient business models are in the face of the complex and interconnected risks companies face. It is also essential for companies to develop high-quality measurement in order to manage their businesses effectively.

To fulfil this role as trusted advisers, we need to attract the best talent. Deloitte and the accounting profession employ a lot of young people - they are investors and business leaders of tomorrow and they tell us that they want to work for businesses whose purpose is aligned with their values. They tell us that climate change is the issue of top concern to them. So we also need to act in order to attract and retain our people.

3. If you were in charge of London for a week, what climate friendly policy would you put in place?

And so I would require every board to put climate change on their agenda and report on how it is embedded in their business and performance management systems in line with the TCFD recommendations. We are making progress but we must go much faster.

4. What do you consider to be your biggest achievement to date? 

Apart from my children, who I consider my best achievement, I am proud to be building awareness of climate change within our business and across the finance profession, both as a defining issue to us all as people and as an issue affecting financial viability and performance.

Perhaps we need to think more about what we value as individuals, and redefine our purpose in our corporate lives.

Read more interviews from Female Leaders in the City.