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How sustainability has expanded the CFO’s role - EY - United States

How sustainability has expanded the CFO’s role

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The triple bottom line

Today's shareholders expect organizations to meet standards of social, environmental and economic performance.

EY - The triple bottom line


Energy-fuel, oil, alternative; Water; Greenhouse gases; Emissions;
Waste reduction: medical; hazardous; non-hazardous; construction;
Recycling; Reprocessing/re-use; Green cleaning; Agriculture/organic foods;
Packaging; Product content; Biodiversity;


Accountability/transparency; Corporate governance; Stakeholder value;
Economic performance; Financial objectives


Public policy and advocacy; Community investments; Working conditions;
Health/nutrition; Diversity; Human rights; Socially responsible investing;
Anticorruption and bribery; Safety

Sustainability issues and financial performance have begun to intertwine.

Traditionally, sustainability issues have fallen outside the jurisdiction of the Chief Financial Officer. CFOs ran the numbers, letting others handle soft issues such as social responsibility and corporate citizenship.

But those job silos are crumbling.

Investors, business customers and other stakeholders have shown a growing desire to connect a company’s financial performance to its social and environmental impact. To make that connection, they have begun evaluating the company’s performance in the environmental, social and governance (ESG) arena, sometimes referred to as the organization’s "triple bottom line."

As a result, sustainability issues and financial performance have begun to intertwine.

CFOs are getting involved in the management, measurement and reporting of the companies’ sustainability activities. This involvement has expanded the CFO’s role in ways that would have been hard to imagine even a few years ago.

The changes stem partly from a realization by institutional investors that climate change and sustainability issues often bear directly on companies’ risk profiles, their reputations and their financial performance. Equity analysts, for example, have begun to look at the sustainability practices of the companies they cover.

As ESG factors are incorporated into investment analysis, companies have started to view environmental and social initiatives as contributing directly to their economic performance.

CFOs and other market-facing executives will need to become more familiar with their companies’ most vital ESG issues. They’ll also need to prepare for hard questions from stakeholders, and to demonstrate a heightened commitment to ESG performance.

Specifically, these trends are changing the CFO’s role in three critical areas:

We also explore:

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  • Thibaut Millet
    Partner and Canada Leader of Climate Change and Sustainability Services
    +1 514 879 2846

  • Jeanna Doherty
    Partner and Americas Leader of Climate Change and Sustainability Services
    +1 860 725 3835

  • John DeRose
    Executive Director
    +1 720 931 4306
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