New sustainability network launched for CFOs

The Prince of Wales’ Accounting for Sustainability Project has launched a sustainability network for chief financial officers and is looking to expand this network globally in 2014.

As the impact of environmental and social concerns become more relevant to companies’ financial performance, some of Europe’s most prominent businesses have put their CFOs on the line in a new network that aims to lead the financial community in responding to these new realities.

The Chief Financial Officer Leadership Network, comprising 16 major British and global companies in Europe, was launched on Dec 12 at the 8th Accounting for Sustainability (A4S) Annual Forum.

The A4S Project was set up by The Prince of Wales in 2004.  

“CFOs have a vital role to play in making sure their businesses thrive, not just today, but tomorrow and into the future.  The bottom line is that sustainable business equals good business.  I am therefore delighted that the A4S Chief Financial Officer Leadership Network will play a key role not only in communicating why sustainability makes business sense, but how to start accounting for it,” said Prince Charles.

The companies in the network are Anglian Water, BUPA, Burberry Group, British Land, The Crown Estate, Danone, Royal DSM, Marks & Spencer, National Grid, Sainsbury’s, SSE, South West Water, Unilever, United Utilities, Walmart EMEA and Yorkshire Water.

CFOs have a vital role to play in making sure their businesses thrive, not just today, but tomorrow and into the future.  The bottom line is that sustainable business equals good business

Prince Charles

The move aims to mainstream this extended new role of CFOs in order to address the grey areas that remain unclear for many companies and give a boost to the deepening importance of sustainability issues into companies’ financial operations.

John Rogers, co-chair of the A4S CFO Leadership Network and CFO of Sainsbury’s noted that what used to be seen as greenwash needs to become as natural to company finance teams as it is to CR departments or even NGOs.

“I’m pleased to be co-chairing this significant new initiative and urge my counterparts in business and public organisations to contribute their skills and experience to the A4S CFO Leadership Network,” he said.

But more critical for companies would be on how their CFOs must work to reflect these issues and make it easier and clearer for stakeholders and investors absorb these new factors. In particular, the CFO group would look into ways to improve their modeling of future risk and uncertainty.

The group’s Charter has set out clear objectives: support CFOs in gaining new competencies; share insights to accelerate progress towards accounting for sustainability; develop new tools and methodologies on how to embed sustainability into the internal decision making processes; and engage investors and other stakeholders.

But for the first year, the network expects tangible achievements such as a guide that would improve transparency in decision making including ways to embed sustainability into capital expenditure appraisal, and improving methodologies for the measurement and valuation of natural and social capital.

The network said it is looking to expand globally during 2014. 

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