Government is good for business.

Accountancy firms could pick up lucrative work from a Treasury demand that government departments include a sustainability report in the next spending round.

As government work becomes increasingly important for firms while other areas begin to dry up, the news was welcomed by senior accountancy figures.

Treasury secretary Andrew Smith has told all departments to ensure sustainable development issues are considered in their bids for the next spending review, the results of which will become clear next summer.

Sustainability and environmental reporting has become a hot topic in the private sector where Shell has this year won awards for its report.

Smith said: ‘All departments have a contribution to make to sustainable development and this should be reflected in their spending review proposals, targets and investment strategies.’

A Big Five firm source said this could mean plenty of work for private sector consultants.

A spokesman for the Treasury conceded the departments could use external advisers, but added the reports would reflect current departmental work.

As part of their spending bids to the Treasury, each department would be required to submit for the first time a summary of how sustainable development had influenced their priorities.

The Treasury outlined fifteen ‘headline indicators’ against which the spending plans would be judged. These included poverty and social exclusion, climate change and land use.

KPMG’s Gerry Acher, a member of the government’s advisory committee on business in the environment, said the Treasury was right to take sustainability issues serious, but added it would not be easy to get it right first time.

‘There will be a big role for consultants to make sure the reports are meaningful,’ he said.

Graham Ward, chairman of the ICAEW’s sustainability advisory committee, welcomed the move, seeing it as an extension of the government’s resource accounting programme. ‘It must be a good thing that government should report on (sustainability) issues in the same way that businesses need to report,’ he said.

But others believed the departments have enough resources to produce the reports internally.

For more on environmental reporting go to

Related reading