StartArticle bankThe evolving role of the CFO in sustainability reporting
June 12, 2024

The evolving role of the CFO in sustainability reporting

With the introduction of the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), the role of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is set to evolve significantly. However, integrating sustainability into financial reporting is not just a compliance exercise; it is a strategic imperative that requires robust processes, accurate data, and comprehensive risk management. This article explores how the role of the CFO is changing as sustainability becomes a central focus for businesses around the world.

Portrait of Mikaela Senator

Mikaela Senator

Head of Sales
CSRDSustainability Reports

Combining financial and sustainability data

One of the most obvious reasons why CFOs will need to be on top of sustainability in the future is that CSRD requires sustainability data to be reported in the management report, giving it the same importance as financial data. What is less well known is that the double materiality assessment will also require the CFO's input. Conducting a dual materiality assessment is the essential first step in achieving CSRD compliance.

The assessment involves considering both the significance of issues in terms of their environmental and social impact (impact materiality) and their financial impact (financial materiality). It is necessary to understand what is happening in your organisation, in your value chain, and in the wider sustainable development arena that can affect your business in different ways. For example, what are the financial and reputational risks of human rights abuses in your supply chain? Or could the EU's new robust nature and climate change legislation potentially lead to increased taxes for your business?

Robust data collection and structuring

A key responsibility of the CFO for all reporting is to establish and maintain robust data collection and structuring processes that ensure data integrity, and this is no different for sustainability. Accurate sustainability data is essential for credible reporting and decision-making. The CFO must:

  • Implement systems to collect real-time sustainability data, such as Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions.
  • Ensure that the data is accurate, comprehensive, and integrated with financial data.
  • Oversee the tagging of sustainability data to increase transparency and accessibility for investors.

Enhancing Shareholder Value

Beyond compliance, the CFO plays a critical role in leveraging sustainability to create shareholder value. After the first wave of CSRD reporting, capital markets will pay more attention to responsible risks and opportunities. By providing more consistent and comparable data, the directive enables companies to be evaluated more easily and better.
Those capable of presenting a compelling narrative on how they compete amidst sustainability-driven market forces will be rewarded. In order to be able to build long-term shareholder value the CFOs need to be able to:

  • Proactively engage with investors and other stakeholders to communicate the company's sustainability efforts and achievements.
  • Demonstrate how sustainability initiatives contribute to long-term financial performance and risk mitigation.
  • Manage to exceed regulatory requirements and position the company as a leader in sustainability.

CFOs as a catalyst for a sustainable future

The role of the CFO is rapidly evolving to meet the demands of sustainability reporting. From establishing robust data collection processes to integrating sustainability into strategic planning and ensuring compliance, the CFO is at the forefront of this transformation. By embracing this expanded role, CFOs can not only ensure regulatory compliance but also drive long-term value creation for their companies. The changing landscape of sustainability reporting presents an opportunity for CFOs to lead their organisations towards a more sustainable and prosperous future.

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