Vincent Manier, Chief Financial Officer at ENGIE Insight, discussed sustainability in the finance sector during his presentation at the 2018 Chief Financial Officer Leadership Forum in New York on November 28. In his presentation, “From Greenwashing to Game-Changing,” Manier offered tips and recommendations to help finance professionals integrate sustainability into their day-to-day activities.
Driving sustainability is a priority for global organizations, yet determining the best ways to develop and implement sustainability programs often proves to be difficult. Fortunately, finance departments can play pivotal roles in transforming sustainability into a key tenet of an organization’s everyday operations.
A finance team is a vital contributor to an organization’s success. If a finance team helps an organization develop and implement a sustainability program, it can ensure that this organization can generate goodwill with global investors and consumers. Plus, a finance team can use a sustainability program to help an organization stand out from its industry rivals.
With a sustainability program, an organization can connect with its target audience like never before. This program allows an organization to look beyond revenue and sales, and instead, show its target audience that it cares about serving the greater good.
“Society is demanding that companies – both public and private – serve a social purpose,” Manier said. “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but it also must show how it makes a positive contribution to society.”
Furthermore, sustainability programs sometimes help organizations save money. They foster innovation, and as such, help organizations find unique ways to cut down on waste. As a result, the cost savings provided by a sustainability program can be substantial.
An organization that deploys a sustainability program today may reap the benefits of this initiative for years to come. If a finance team takes the lead on a sustainability program, it could help an organization implement a sustainable approach across all departments.
“Sustainability has moved very quickly from a greenwashing topic … to a changing discipline where finance is leading the way,” Manier pointed out.
Thanks to a sustainability program, an organization may be better equipped than ever before to get buy-in from potential investors. This program can help an organization stand out from its rivals, and ultimately, foster trust and loyalty with both investors and consumers.
“It usually makes sense to invest in sustainable companies,” Manier stated. “There is a positive relationship between sustainability and financial performance.”
To illustrate the value of sustainability programs for global organizations, Manier highlighted examples involving GameStop and Caesars Entertainment.
GameStop is an American consumer electronics and video game retailer. The company implemented a sustainability program and generated immediate cost savings from it.
Also, GameStop used its sustainability program to retrieve a broad array of data related to its day-to-day operations. This information helped GameStop discover innovative ways to further reduce its operating expenses.
“GameStop generated significant savings through its sustainability program,” Manier indicated. “And [GameStop] became very data-driven.”
At Caesars, the organization embraced sustainability from the bottom-up. Caesars integrated sustainability into all aspects of its culture, and by doing so, ensured that its employees fostered sustainability in their everyday efforts.
“[Caesars] developed a very strong culture with its code of green conduct that is ingrained into its operations and into every employee’s life,” Manier said. “[The culture] is very meaningful to everybody at Caesars.”
For finance teams that want to drive sustainability across their respective organizations, data is paramount. If a finance team retrieves data from various sources, it can identify industry and consumer trends and patterns. Then, a finance team can use this information to develop a sustainability program that delivers meaningful results.
Finance teams should strive to use all available data, too. If a finance team leverages a vast array of data, it may uncover insights that it otherwise may struggle to obtain elsewhere. With these insights in hand, a finance team could find the best ways to launch and maintain a successful sustainability program.
“We need to take the lead [with data],” Manier stated. “We need to extract additional data from accounts payable so we can understand our spend and gain greater control [over it].”
Although finance teams may be concerned about the costs to develop and implement a sustainability program, it is important to note that the benefits of this program generally outweigh the costs associated with it.
A sustainability program empowers an organization with the ability to do good for the global community, along with a competitive differentiator. It also helps an organization lower its operating costs and generate goodwill with investors and consumers around the world.
“The cost of sustainability programs is often offset by the savings they provide,” Manier noted.