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Sustainability and the CFO: Survey demonstrates key attitudes are in transition; officers are engaged

A recent study conducted for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited and its member firms by Verdantix underscores the fact that many leading organizations are rethinking sustainability as a potentially significant factor in their business—a factor that can have notable impact on both operations and financial outcomes.  In my opinion, it’s likely these are the same organizations that acknowledged sustainability as far more than “just a fad” some time ago.  Now, increasingly, they are seeing the connection between ROI and sustainability initiatives across the supply chain and within their own organizations.

The “2012 Sustainability and the CFO” survey was conducted globally for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited and its member firms by Verdantix, an independent firm of business analysts.  In all, 250 CFOs—representing companies with an average of $12 billion in revenue, across 15 industries in 14 countries—were surveyed.  The attitudes captured point up clearly and dramatically that sustainability has officially entered the c-suite, and that CFOs, in particular, are focused on the issue’s ability to create long-term value and competitive differentiation. In short, for quite a few of these 250 survey participants, sustainability is integral to how their businesses run.

I want to share several of the key survey findings to further illustrate these points:

  • 49% of respondents see sustainability as a key driver of financial performance.
  • 34% say they are in the process of implementing an organizational transformation relating to energy, environment, and/or sustainability—and another 22% plan to do so in the next two years.
  • And while 44% say that sustainability authority still rests mainly with their CEOs, the number of CFOs and COOs getting directly involved has grown significantly—from 17% of CFOs last year to 26% in 2012; and from 3% of COOs in 2011 to 10% this year.  In other words, sustainability authority is transitioning from “face of the brand” officers into the hands of those empowered with operating authority and the budgets to implement sustainability strategies.
  • 66% report that CFO involvement with sustainability is deepening, meaning they are either always or frequently involved in driving execution of programs in their organizations.
  • And one other result of special interest is that 39% of CFOs now believe it is “very important” to communicate about sustainability to empoyees—a 16% increase in this response over 2011.

What does all of this mean?  I believe it describes an attitude about sustainability value that has been transformed by business realities: data accessibility and analytics have improved along with the emergence of important resource management issues (e.g., water scarcity and energy management).  So more and more business leaders are learning about how they can work with suppliers and other stakeholders to be more efficient and cost-effective, while also helping to mitigate resource and production risks, and explore innovative ways of doing things that might further contribute to future success.  I believe that these survey results demonstrate that sustainability is a friend of—not a threat to—companies that intend to lead us into the future, and I’m excited about working with those corporate leaders to do just that!

David Pearson
Chief Sustainability Officer and Global Managing Director, Sustainability
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited

As used in this document, "Deloitte" means Deloitte Consulting LLP, a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP. Please see www.deloitte.com/us/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting.

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of Deloitte practitioners. Deloitte is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, financial, investment, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. Deloitte, its affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this publication.

Copyright © 2012 Deloitte Development LLC. All rights reserved


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