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From 18th 21st November, accountants from all over the world will congregate in Mumbai for the 21st World Congress of Accountants.

I was at the last World Congress, four years ago in Sydney, and it was a remarkable event. Over 5,000 accountants came together to discuss and debate the key issues facing the profession. Attending the plenary sessions, where they could accommodate 5,000 delegates in one enormous theatre, was pretty inspiring.

That Congress was the first time I heard the statement "accountants can save the world" being discussed seriously. Accountants have a key role to play in reducing fraud, in providing transparent and complete information to stakeholders, and increasingly in measuring and reporting on organisations' climate impact to help investors channel funds towards more ethical investments. Accountants add rigour and credibility. So when people say accounts can save the world, it may sound a bit overblown, but they can make a real difference.

Looking back four years ago, the thing that really strikes me is that at that Congress, if anybody had asked for a list of the key risks facing organisations in the next four years, no one would have mentioned a pandemic as a possible cause for concern. It wouldn't have been on anyone's risk register. Nor would high inflation, which none of us considered to be a cause of worry at all, or high energy prices, or, for that matter, a war in Ukraine or the UK government going a bit mad with the public finances. None of that would have been on anybody's list.

We live in a much more uncertain world then anyone would have predicted in 2018. So we need to build businesses that can withstand shocks. And we have to learn to be reactive as well as proactive. I have always been an advocate of the need to spend more time looking forwards and less time looking backwards, and I think that is even more true now. But it may be that we don't get to look as far forwards as we'd like to because we have to deal with short term priorities.

Alan Nelson is an author for accountingcpd. To see his courses, click here.

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