Corporate Sustainability: Integrating Performance and Reporting.

Author:Sweeney, Paul
Position:Ernst & Young L.L.P.

By Ann Brockett and Zabihollah Rezaee

John Wiley & Sons Inc., 316 pages, $75 USA, $90 Canada

A 2010 United Nations report on corporate governance describes "business sustainability" as "conducting operations in a manner that meets existing needs, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs and has regard for the impacts that business operations have on the life of the community." Historically, chief financial officers were not especially engaged with sustainability concerns.

According to a report by Ernst & Young, CFOs have usually viewed such concerns as "too soft" or "not in their purview." But that is changing. E&Y reports that 65 percent of CFOs at public companies are either "very" or "somewhat" involved in sustainability concerns and are increasingly emerging as "key players" in sustainability reporting.

"CFOs are getting involved in the management, measurement and reporting of the companies' sustainability activities," the E&Y report found. "This involvement has expanded the CFO's role in ways that would have been hard to imagine even a few years ago."

One big reason for that uptick in interest? Equity analysts are attaching greater importance to sustainability. Thirty-eight percent of respondents surveyed by E&Y say that equity analysts who cover their company consider sustainability performance in their evaluations, and 23 percent believe this will happen within five years.

The E&Y report, which discusses the broadening duties of the CFO as well as the rising scrutiny that Wall Street analysts are providing to sustainability, came to my attention via a footnote buried in Corporate Sustainability: Integrating Performance and Accountability. Co-authored by Ann M. Brockett and Zabihollah Rezaee, the book is a treasure trove of everything having to do with business sustainability--from its history, to corporate governance and financial reporting to workplace ethics and the environmental concerns of greenhouse gases and clean water, the authors cover the waterfront.

Brockett is a partner at E&Y in Canada and a leader in the firm's climate change and sustainability practice in the Americas. Rezaee is an accounting professor at the...

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