31 Aug 2012 08:30am

If I ruled the world: Shaylesh Patel

This month we ask Shaylesh Patel how he'd handle the biggest job of all

While drafting this piece I was reminded of an incident at my daughter’s primary school – one of just many non work-related events that have contributed to me (and many other accountants) suffering previously unimaginable mid-life crises.

Written on the door of her classroom was a quote from Einstein, whose contribution to the world sadly today gets boiled down to E=mc2 and his crazy professor hair.

“Not everything that can be counted, counts and not everything that counts, can be counted,” read the quote.

As accountants we either: question that statement (but I am no Einstein); ignore it as it is hard to deal with; or, like the ICAEW’s Finance for the Future awards, which were created with Prince Charles’ Accounting for Sustainability Project, embrace it.

If I ruled the world, I’d get more people to embrace it. As a profession, as parents, as children and members of society we are fortunate and can steer individuals and organisations towards new ways of measuring what can be counted; and simply accepting that doing what feels right explains everything else. Countries such as Bhutan restrict tourist numbers carefully and measure Gross National Happiness to ensure they protect their beautiful country and do not fall for the short-term gain for long-term loss.

Hearing about leadership and Bhutan-ist examples are great, but sometimes we can all feel overwhelmed by being just a sole person. We all need to feel that we are part of something bigger and together, we can make a big difference in many small ways. These are the principles on which the Healthy Planet charity was founded in 2007.

There is an infinite number of creative, innovative ways to do business and do what’s right at the same time. Collaboration and replacing the single bottom line with the triple bottom line (social, economic and environmental) are key to moving forward.

Commercial landlords and pension schemes are saving cash by temporarily giving their unlet space to charities like Healthy Planet, which in turn measures their success by distributing books for free that were otherwise destined for landfill or pulping.

The unexpected bonus is that volunteers are gaining social skills and confidence, leading to greater employability. A gold-medal, triple bottom-line performance by Great Britain.So, long live the ideas of Einstein, the non-accountant.


Shaylesh Patel is the deskless founder of the Healthy Planet charity. Visit healthyplanet.org for more information