Retired, enjoying life with his wife Kalpana and four children, and sharing his experiences − this is Dr Suresh Kana, reputed ethical leader in our profession.
Those who know Suresh are proud of his contributions through the pivotal roles in his career: PwC SA CEO and PwC Africa senior partner, chair of SAICA, non-executive chair and director of JSE-listed companies, trustee of the IFRS Foundation and the Constitutional Court Trust, chair of the audit committee of the United Nations World Food Programme, honorary professor at several SA universities and awardee of three honorary doctorates.
He is well known for his characteristics – driven, humble, resilient, patient, hard-working, life-long learner, mentor, ethical, social citizen and a committed father and husband.
I had the privilege of interviewing Suresh in person in 2013 for an ASA article and I had that same privilege again in 2021 – this time it was a video call for COVID-19 safety precautions!
Sustaining our planet for the future of our children is no longer just an option – it should be integral to our personal and professional conduct and as CAs(SA) the way we lead responsible businesses. We are proud that a SAICA member of Suresh’s stature is a key player and contributor to crucial global initiatives promoting sustainability and assisting in combating global hunger.
‘If there is to be peace in the world, there must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations, there must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities, there must be peace between neighbours.
If there is to be peace between neighbours, there must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home, there must be peace in the heart.’
Suresh lives by the philosophy of Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu and explains: ‘I have always tried to live Lao Tzu’s philosophy in my professional career spanning 45 years. I have been involved in worldwide social entrepreneur projects that promote sustainability and ethics since my retirement in 2015.
These projects include serving as audit committee chair of the United Nations World Food Programme (UN WFP), trustee of the IFRS Foundation based in London and a member of its steering committee that is currently overseeing the establishment of an International Sustainability Standards Board. The current aim of the foundation is to develop standards to provide investors and capital markets with information that support the efficient allocation of capital and resources.’
The UN WFP, based in Rome, is the world’s largest humanitarian organisation operating in 88 countries focused on addressing hunger and food insecurity and aims to achieve zero hunger by 2030. Suresh explains: ‘When you think about the UN WFP, you may think “food aid” as the primary vision to solve hunger, but there is so much more. That is why the UN WFP was awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.’
In his role as chairman of the UN WFP audit committee, Suresh and his team live the three professional values and attitudes of SAICA’s CA2025 competency framework relating to ethics, social citizenship and lifelong learning.
In my conversation with Suresh, I learned the following about him and his team’s approach to these values and attitudes:
Suresh makes it clear that in their role, the UN WFP audit committee needs to be constantly aware of how their oversight may impact the support provided to vulnerable beneficiaries. The committee drives the UN WFP’s core purpose of achieving zero hunger by 2030 and preventing the escalation of hunger into war and conflict.
‘In one’s role as a CA(SA) it is important to stay on route with one’s ethical compass and value system, stay sceptical, not fear authority but rather challenge it and not allow commercialism to overtake ethics,’ says Suresh. He believes the majority of our profession’s members are ethical but emphasises that unethical outliers affect our profession’s credibility.
Suresh believes that the social impact of the UN WFP audit committee’s vision is ultimately contributing to zero hunger, conflict prevention, local community empowerment and sustainable development. Similarly, the Constitutional Court Trust promotes democracy and human rights in South Africa.
He believes that with our core skills as accountants and auditors we can contribute to world peace and democracy.
In 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, the WFP had to modify their approaches to continue to provide food assistance to approximately 120 million beneficiaries in 88 countries in the most desperate parts of the world. Of those 120 million beneficiaries, approximately 22 million are children who depend on this support as it is often their only meal for the day. ‘Why is this important?’ I asked Suresh. ‘Because history has shown that if people are food insecure and if it is not addressed timeously, the ultimate result is instability, conflict and war.’
At the age of 66, Suresh sets an example of a CA(SA) who does the right thing, because it is the right thing to do and through this, he contributes to a better sustainable planet for future generations.
What Suresh has learned over the past 66 years of his life
|Chasing money and wealth at the cost of ethics||Instant gratification affects our ethics – There are no shortcuts in life and therefore there is no need to chase the expensive car, it will come to you at the right time.
Do not forget your roots – Always remember the point where you started and who helped you get there.
Reaffirm universal values daily – Over the last 50 years, I wake up at 03:08 daily to focus my mind on the values of dignity, respect, love, and compassion.
|Challenges that each CA(SA) generation faced||Each generation has its challenges.
During and after the Second World War, my generation, the Baby Boomers, were born into a world of shortage and because of that, we valued everything and were willing to share what we had. We have transitioned from a World of Shortage to a World of Plenty but in a very unequal way. We need to strive towards a more equal society!
|What is essential in life||Most essential things in life are free − the air, the sun, nature. These are the essentials that we must value and be grateful for.
As CAs(SA) we need to view life from three perspectives:
Personal relationships – We need to build on the fundamental institution of family through respect, support on an ethical foundation − this is what really matters.
Professional relationships – When we receive our SAICA certificate of membership, we must recognise that we must adhere to the fundamental principles and conceptual framework of the SAICA Code of Conduct. As CAs(SA) we need to keep each other honest and accountable.
Societal relationships – Nobody cares how much you know before they know how much you care. What matters in this world is what you contribute to it. As global citizens, we need to care for the vulnerable.
|Global experience and opportunities||As CAs(SA) we need to take opportunities that can develop and grow us – this is an innate human characteristic. In my early professional life, these opportunities were here in South Africa. Today the world is your oyster – a global working place. Enjoy it but also cherish the privilege.|
Adel du Plessis CA(SA), MHEd (cum laude)