CFO’s Embracing Sustainability: Here’s Why

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In the wake of the recent economic downturn, many industries have taken a much harder look at their core business functions. Initiated by compliance and/or business sustainability necessity, today’s executives can no longer accept ‘business as usual’. Beginning with reforms and improvements in financial, energy, water, and GHG monitoring and reporting, there are many learnings that can be applied to other core sustainability-driven functions. In fact, our sustainability consulting finds that the CFO has become a much more prominent figure in the business sustainability conversation.

“Making the business case has long been a mantra of sustainability advocates. After all, if sustainability doesn’t create business value, why bother? For years, the business case focused on growing sales and cutting costs. But there are other aspects of sustainability — transparency, disclosure, compensation, and risk — that garner the attention of shareholders and others near and dear to the boardroom.”

This lead-in to the GreenBiz article, Why Sustainability Counts for CFOs, describes one of the defining trends of business sustainability change in 2012. Traditionally absent from most sustainable business concepts, Chief Financial Officers have now become a central component to sustainability concept definitions and implementations. Now, there is more proof that CFO’s are engaged in the sustainability discussion.

A recent study conducted for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited and its member firms by Verdantix underscores the fact that many leading organizations are rethinking sustainability as a potentially significant factor in their business. Some of the notable findings from the 2012 Sustainability and the CFO survey include:

  • 49% of respondents see sustainability as a key driver of financial performance.
  • 34% say they are in the process of implementing an organizational transformation relating to energy, environment, and/or sustainability—and another 22% plan to do so in the next two years.
  • 66% report that CFO involvement with sustainability is deepening, meaning they are either always or frequently involved in driving execution of programs in their organizations.
  • 39% of CFOs now believe it is “very important” to communicate about sustainability to employees—a 16% increase in this response over 2011.

Integrating sustainability concepts into core business functions makes companies more nimble in this fast-changing world. It makes brands more attractive to consumers and retailers, and its management more respected by employees and the financial markets. In short, the drivers for improved business sustainability equate to improved performance. It’s no wonder CFO’s are engaged in the sustainability conversation.

Article by Julie Urlaub, Founder and Managing Partner at Taiga Company; appearing courtesy 3BL Media.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.