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A4S Finance Leaders’ Sustainability Barometer

Over the last 12 months we have surveyed finance leaders to gauge, at a global level, the current understanding and attitudes of finance leaders towards embedding sustainability into their decision-making processes.

Supported by Deloitte and Black Sun, the results of this inaugural survey we hope will help to track changes in attitudes over time, helping to identify trends and ongoing gaps in terms of skills and action.

Download our full report and insights, including our top level insights below.

There is a gap between sustainability ambitions and the work to make them a reality
Agreement on the necessary direction is there, but when it comes to ‘walking the talk’ there remains a sizable ambition gap.

  • 93% agree it’s very important for their business to transform financial decision making to reflect ESG issues, although almost one in five (19%) reported that they do not consider ESG information when making decisions, instead relying almost exclusively on traditional financial considerations.

CFOs must be a champion for change, and bridge the skills gap
When it comes to capturing some of the opportunities related to ESG adoption, our respondents fully expect the CFO to step up to the plate. But there was also a clear opportunity for CFOs to build finance teams that are fit for the future through technology, skills and capacity building:

  • 77% said the CFO is mostly or completely responsible for realizing the opportunity of developing new technologies and innovations to share sustainable outcomes.
  • Less than 1/2 believed their finance team has the skills and competencies for supporting ESG efforts (48%). Yet, 82% either don’t assess ESG competence during recruitment or promotions or do so only when recruiting for specialist roles.
  • 81% said ESG information is considered important in their organizations’ decision making…but 2/3 believe their organization lacks the full suite of reliable tools and techniques to make this happen.

Leadership ambitions and the day-to-day operations are not matching up
Our more senior respondents backed ambition, however this did not seem to be fully communicated to the rest of the staff. With staff retention being such a key driver for change, CFOs should look to improve internal communication and the culture of the finance team.

  • 76% of Group CFOs said they personally backed this ambition, however just one third (33%) of their more junior counterparts perceived such commitment from their own Group CFO.

Nature is falling behind as a priority
Providing solutions to tackle climate change and improving diversity, equity and inclusion is now firmly in the sights of the finance community as the biggest opportunities. However, dealing with the drastic decline in nature is comparatively behind.

  • Less than 1/4 identified redressing biodiversity loss as among their biggest ESG-related opportunities (24%). Compared to 3/5 when considering climate.
  • 1/2 believe their organization has made little or no progress in mitigating the risk of biodiversity loss and depletion of natural resources (50%).


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Essential Guide Series

The guides have been developed by the A4S CFO Leadership Network and their teams (comprising senior finance, risk, internal audit, investor relations and sustainability professionals), A4S and other specialists. Each guide is supported by practical examples from network members which demonstrate practical applications of the approaches and techniques set out in the guides.

The A4S Academy

The A4S Academy is a learning and implementation programme for finance leaders on embedding sustainability. The programme empowers and equips finance teams with the skills needed for their businesses to succeed in the face of environmental and social risks and opportunities. The Academy is for senior finance professionals, sponsored by their CFOs. All sessions are being held online.


Stay up to date with all the latest news at A4S. Our monthly newsletter includes the latest guides, reports, stories and thought pieces from finance leaders across the globe.

Accounting for Sustainability is a Charitable Incorporated Organization, registered charity number 1195467. Accounting for Sustainability is part of the King Charles III Charitable Fund Group of Charities.
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