New ESG chief Andrews will assist KPMG UK clients in overcoming a “huge variety of complex challenges” on sustainability.
KPMG UK’s newly appointed Head of ESG, Richard Andrews, aims to embed ESG throughout the business and ensure that it becomes “the watermark that runs throughout the firm”.
Andrews told ESG Investor its clients come to KPMG UK with a “huge variety of complex challenges related to their ESG agenda”, including reporting, transition planning and decarbonisation programmes, among others.
He also flagged a growing interest among clients in ESG themes, such as human rights, nature and biodiversity.
Andrews underlined the importance of “high quality, internationally consistent” reporting standards in facilitating a “successful” ESG reporting ecosystem.
“Currently there are many different voluntary standards for ESG reporting, and because they are voluntary, there is considerable divergence in what companies report,” said Andrews.
“The ‘alphabet soup’ of ESG reporting standards has been a barrier to high quality consistent reporting, creating complexity for companies and confusion for users of information.”
Growing ESG focus
Andrews highlighted that recently introduced requirements in ESG reporting, such as mandating the Taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) in the UK, are beginning to make a wider effect and are driving a “different conversation” in the boardroom.
“From the top down, companies are making strategic decisions that take climate, and broader ESG considerations more into account including by driving innovation and capitalising on opportunities,” he said. “In most companies that was not the case a few years ago.”
Andrews flagged “significant market-wide development” on reporting requirements, including the standards being finalised by the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), the UK’s Transition Plan Taskforce, the upcoming climate disclosure rules from the US Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Taskforce on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures.
“This highlights that a much richer and deeper set of data will need to be captured and validated by our clients,” he said.
“We have been vocal at a global level in our support of the ISSB’s ambition of developing a global baseline for sustainability-related reporting that national jurisdictions can build on and are very actively engaged with companies, regulatory bodies, investors, and other stakeholders on this issue.”
Andrews said that providing “confidence and trust” in capital markets is vital, with the firm committed to developing and implementing the systems, processes, and controls to corporates in all aspects of their reporting, as well as providing assurance for disclosures.
“We want to get to a point where ESG reporting is of the same quality and rigour as financial information,” Andrews added.
According to Andrews, ESG will “only become more, not less, of a priority for CEOs and boards”. “Now is not the time to put off to tomorrow that which we need to urgently progress today,” he added. “Delaying key ESG efforts could make businesses more reactive in the future rather than help them lead the way with greater transparency, resilience, and sustainability.”
Bolstering ESG capabilities
Andrews will succeed John McCalla-Leacy as UK Head of ESG at the Big Four accounting firm. He has been with KPMG UK for more than 25 years, and brings experience in controls, assurance and reporting to the role.
Andrews will be responsible for driving investment in the firm’s ESG practice and building out relevant partnerships across industry.
He will also strengthen the skills, talent and technology across the company’s various teams and functions to support clients as they develop their response to the challenges ESG presents as well as the opportunities for growth it offers.
“ESG is at the forefront of our clients’ agendas. It spans all business areas, and the market is growing fast,” he said. “It is one of our priority areas for investment and we have invested significantly across the UK firm, including in our ESG client services, on developing new ESG tech enabled products such as ESG IQ, and building our talent to deliver for our clients’ complex needs.”
KPMG UK has recruited market experts to join the firm at Partner and Director level across its functions, with more than 350 full-time ESG specialists currently working at the firm.
“To demonstrate the pace of that growth, if we look at our Climate Risk & Strategy team, this saw headcount growth of circa 400% in less than a year, with the team now at over 100 specialists,” said Andrews.
“The reason clients come to us is that we bring a team which combines deep subject matter expertise, specialist sector knowledge and the full range of our capabilities and technical skills across our multi-disciplinary firm both in the UK and globally to accelerate the implementation of the right solutions both now and in the future,” he added.