Rethinking Sustainable Business: Insights from ACCA Professionals – Dasun Mendis, Prasenna Balachandran and Sajindu Perera

Approaching a transformational era where success is focused on meaning and longevity, ACCA entails a descriptive plan and procedure to educate growing accountants in accommodating their careers with sustainability practices. Benefiting from their refined prospectus, few members of ACCA, Dasun Mendis, Prasenna Balachandran and Sajindu Perera, share their narratives of success and recognition, highlighting the significance of sustainability practices in businesses and accountancy. 

Dasun Mendis currently serves as the General Manager – Finance of the Food Cluster at Ceylon Biscuits Limited (CBL) Group Sri Lanka for about eight years. Prior to this position, he worked as the Finance Manager at Hemas Holdings PLC, leading the SLFRS reporting function of the Group and centralized Treasury. His initial career was inaugurated at KPMG Sri Lanka, working in the capacity of various roles as handling SLFRS conversion assignments, external audits and providing Financial Reporting Advisory services. 

Indulging his experience into practice, Dasun states that he does not believe “short-term profitability being a trade-off with long-term sustainability”. Sustainability doesn’t necessarily mean completely changing the operating model of a business incurring significant capital expenditure but can even be small changes that are adopted. It can also be a parallel motion where “adopting more sustainable business operations can lead to immediate cost savings and increase in revenue,”. Taking forward the learnings from the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of embracing new working methods, supply chain management and streamlining operations by cutting back on unnecessary costs and wastage can improve on sustainability initiatives of corporates, “by making business operations more conducive towards the environment, employees and society as a whole”

Prasenna Balachandran serves as the Chief Risk Control Officer at Hemas Holdings, Sri Lanka. Playing various roles in his career from certified chartered accountant to a certified internal auditor, he functioned in diverse companies like Brandix, Dialog, prior to his position at Hemas Group. Qualified with an International Diploma in Risk Management, Prasenna has been partaking voluntarily in ACCA, assisting the development of the profession within the country. Apart from facilitating the motives via conferences and webinar sessions, he promotes internal auditing and risk management whilst holding the capacity as the Governor of Internal Auditor. 

ACCA holds a firm perspective in embedding sustainability practices into their academic procedures. Prasenna states, “ACCA is first to introduce sustainability within an accounting curriculum” when describing his proud years as an ACCA student himself; “I remember studying corporate social responsibility, corporate citizenship, the impact of sustainability in a business etc., which is even practised today through ACCA’s sustainability practices”. This particular quality outstands ACCA in the eyes of the growing accountants as it represents a refreshing outlook on accountancy. 

Prasenna also emphasizes the significance of sustainability in decision-making. He adds, “sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” when pointing out the three vitals contributing to sustainability; natural resources, social resources and economic resources. Attributing this scenario to the current situation in Sri Lanka, Prasenna states that companies cannot overlook the core benefits received by any source whilst engaging in their business actions. The core parties must never be deserted as the mere existence of the business, or the sustainability factor of the business is highly dependent on the core source. Therefore, Prasenna states that negligence of sustainability in decision-making can create havoc to the company’s trajectory elevation, also degrading the existing reputation of the organization. 

Further adding value to ACCA’s services is Sajindu Perera, who serves as a Deputy General Manager – Finance at MAS Intimates (Pvt) Ltd. She currently provides leadership to the Management Information Team, responsible for spearheading the strategic finance division, whilst also leading the Finance Integration Unit responsible for managing and optimizing the working capital requirements of the company. Possessing a spectrum of qualifications including her MBA at PIM with a merit pass, multiple Sri Lankan prizes in the ACCA qualification and a World prize for Accounts for her Cambridge Advanced Level examination, Sajindu is also a well-recognized member of ACCA. Sajindu was also chosen as the Sri Lankan representative at the ‘ACCA Global Leaders of Tomorrow’ Work Group and was the youngest recipient at the recently concluded ACCA Sri Lanka Advocacy Awards. She was also awarded the Young Corporate Career Woman of the Year at the recently concluded New Generation Awards 2021 organized by Women in Management Sri Lanka and the National Youth Services Council. 

Sajindu states that traditional business models benefit a stakeholder at the expense of other stakeholders, while sustainable businesses implement business models that accommodate the values of all stakeholders; the customers, the employees and the suppliers. She believes that strategic sustainability planning is possible with the continuous iteration and communication maintained with the stakeholders whilst incorporating a sustainable plan. 

Sajindu addresses the sceptical views most companies possess; “As a consumer, I say there is a shift of perspective in our mind. Conscious customers want to know how their products are made and who made them. We expect a lot more transparency and honesty. We want a tangible global impact”. She further elucidates, “There are plenty of options for consumers, so businesses must find the differentiating factor and must drive behind that” when explaining the customer’s perception towards purchasing a product can be affected by the final level of product performance in terms of impact on environment and society. 

Referring to the two opposite perceptions on sustainability within the society, where some claim its importance as a necessity and others as a differentiation aspect, Sajindu strongly accepts it as a pinch of both, given the commonality of involving sustainability measures. She adds, “some take it as common business practice while others implement sustainable strategies, generating competitive advantage”, further confirming that sustainability can be both a necessity and a differentiator within businesses. As sustainable practices cannot portray results overnight, Sajindu emphasizes the requirement of constant engagement with both customers and stakeholders throughout the journey, implying a commitment to a clear and compelling sustainable agenda.  
Through these individuals, ACCA’s standards and significance in accountancy have been laid denoting their exemplary work to motivate sustainability within the organization. Adhering to their reputation of being recognized as the world’s most forward-thinking professional accountancy body, ACCA continues to ‘Think forward’, achieving an expansion of their global accountants’ community day by day.

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