I attended the Barclays Professional Services Conference at the Institute of Chartered Accountants this week, exploring the theme "Thriving in a changing world". It was an opportunity to share and listen to some useful insights into the challenges and opportunities for professional service firms.

A diverse range of expert speakers identified key issues including AI, ESG and climate change, inflationary pressures and conflicts around the world and their potential impacts for professional advisers.

I spoke on the ESG panel about the challenges of sustainability and climate change including the need for firms to understand and manage their supply chain scope 3 risks, including business travel policies and collation and verification of ESG data. Brand and reputational issues and the threat of greenwashing challenges are also critical considerations.

But it's not all about risk. There are also new opportunities for professional advisers in assisting their clients in responding to their own challenges from climate change and helping them navigate the increasingly complex regulatory and corporate reporting frameworks now emerging around the world.

One thing is for sure. The ESG challenges for professional services firms have never been greater, and are only set to grow. Firms need to understand these threats now, and put the appropriate policies and structures in place to avoid getting left behind.

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