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2021 CFO Sustainability Snapshot Survey Results

Deloitte, the Sustainable Business Council and Toitū Tahua: Centre for Sustainable Finance have today released the findings of the 2021 CFO Sustainability Snapshot Survey, finding that two-thirds of CFOs are on the journey of their organisation’s sustainability transition but there is an opportunity for greater and faster action.

“We have seen that most organisations and CFOs have recognised the importance of taking sustainability action and have begun the journey. However, it is vital that CFOs continue to broaden their impact in this area to accelerate their organisation’s sustainability transition, at what is a critical tipping point for New Zealand,” said Andrew Boivin, Deloitte New Zealand Climate Leader.

While many CFOs consider sustainability to be a core part of their role or hold oversight of this business area, 37% of those surveyed do not. This presents a significant opportunity for those CFOs to embrace sustainability and actively incorporate it into their role custodians of strategy, risk management, performance, and value creation.

“CFOs are well-positioned to drive effective action within their organisations due to their end-to-end view of the business, influence with the board and executive, focus on value creation and risk management, as well as holding the toolkit required to align with changing ESG requirements,” said Jo Kelly, CEO Toitū Tahua: Centre for Sustainable Finance.

CFOs identified competitive and reputational advantage (54%), ‘it’s the right thing to do’ (52%) and changing consumer preferences (41%) as the top factors for sustainability action across an organisation, showing that values tend to be the driver for change over compliance.

“The survey reflects that business leaders have a strong value lens when it comes to prioritising sustainability. Most of the CFOs surveyed have already integrated sustainability within their organisational strategy and structure because it’s the right thing to do, and they can see the competitive and reputational advantages that go with it. As a result, most have already taken action on the low-hanging fruit and are becoming increasingly ambitious in their approach and outlook,” said Mike Burrell, Executive Director of the Sustainable Business Council.

The survey also indicated that resourcing and capability were key barriers for organisations to progress sustainability action, reflecting that the sustainability transition requires new ways of thinking, new skillsets, and new investments.

“Some CFOs lack experience with initiating some of the more technical sustainability aspects such as internal carbon pricing or climate-related external reporting. We want to help them navigate these areas as emissions reduction targets and climate-related disclosures become more common, and more important. We know there’s still a way to go, but there’s no doubt sustainability is increasingly a priority for businesses in their strategic planning, which can only be good for Aotearoa New Zealand,” says Mr Burrell.

“While not covered explicitly, we also expect COVID-19 will have an impact on some businesses sustainability plans, particularly where they are dealing with major disruptions or can’t find the skills they need in NZ,” says Mr Boivin.

“Sustainability decision-making is firmly at the heart of the modern CFO’s role. We hope the findings from the survey encourage them to seize the opportunities available, look ahead, and accelerate sustainability investments,” concludes Ms Kelly.

The full report is available here.

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