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Sustainability CFO: The CFO of the Future?



“I would argue that the CFO is at the centre of a change that is happening within business. Corporate responsibility is no longer the philanthropic side-line that is a million miles away from the core business; it is now an essential part of the CFO’s toolkit.”  Gregor Alexander, CFO, SSE1The value of an organization far exceeds what financial statements show. Eighty percent of the valuation of a company actually depends on the worth of its intangible assets.2 A 2012 report found that nonfinancial information and integrated reporting (commonly understood as the merger of financial and nonfinancial reporting) was rated the No. 1 driver expected to have the greatest impact on the accountancy profession.3Historically, accountants have struggled to account for and systematically integrate nonfinancial value into financial reports. That’s now changing, as an increasing number of companies have begun to include the monitoring of nonfinancial performance in their strategic reviews.4 In line with the evolution of the profession toward a better inclusion of sustainability into accounting practices, a new job is now appearing: what we have labelled “the sustainability CFO.”5 A CFO is the senior executive responsible for managing the financial strategic decisions of a company, such as the company’s investments, capital structure, and financial planning. The sustainability CFO is a new position within a company, separate from the existing CFO position. The sustainability CFO is exclusively responsible for the nonfinancial performance of the company—also referred to as sustainability performance. Sustainability encompasses a broad range of themes, such as managing carbon footprints, assessing social impact, and participating in the creation of nonfinancial reporting standards.