CFOs act as barriers to sustainable development

Organisations must ensure chief finance officers (CFOs) are educated on sustainable development if they are to keep up with environmentally concious competitors.

Talking at the Smarter Sustainability Reporting conference in London today, sponsored by Sustainable Business magazine and edie, programme director of reporting and investment, Dr Rodney Irwin, said that one of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development's (WBCSD) roles was to work with CFOs to get them in touch with sustainable development issues.

Dr Irwin pointed to recent survey findings which clearly indicated that the CFOs in many listed companies in the UK are the barriers to sustainable development. This was backed up by a story reported on edie last month.

"Being confronted with something where principles are primarily the driver, can sometimes be very uncomfortable for the finance community," said Dr Irwin, a chartered accountant himself.

However, speaking from personal experience of the finance world, Dr Irwin said that his new role in the sustainability sector did not always feel more virtuous and that aggressive positioning seemed more common in the sustainability sector.

"We aspire to be the voice of business because we sometimes feel that the voice of business is diluted, or schizophrenic - getting the voice of business to become unified is often a challenge," he said.

He added that companies were spending millions today on sustainability reporting and that the CFO and his board have a duty to ensure that money was being spent wisely.

"We are a fan of integrated reporting, we believe that we need to change the rules of the game at WBCSD and we believe we won't be able to achieve our vision of nine billion people living well in the limits of the planet, unless what gets measured gets managed."

The WBCSD is a CEO-led organisation, which claims to galvanize the global business community to create a sustainable future for business, society and the environment.

Conor McGlone


sustainable business | Sustainability reporting


Energy efficiency & low-carbon
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