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CFOs can make an impact by supporting the right investments and governance structures, providing the insight and knowledge necessary to drive strategic actions, and being engaged in discussions regarding the business case and economics of sustainability. The financial community and consumer advocates will pressure companies to increase their disclosure, not just for the benefit of investors, but also for the benefit of the society they serve.

CFOs who choose to lead will be strategic and purpose-driven in their approach and reap the benefits in the form of improved reputation, employee engagement, productivity, market valuation, and long-term retention of employees and shareholders. Awareness, collaboration, planning and execution are just a few examples of how CFOs can help their businesses prepare for environmental, social and governance (ESG) challenges and success in the years ahead. Without a clear commitment from leaders at the highest levels, the finance function can face increased scrutiny and risk.

Additionally, it’s important that finance teams prioritize time to create or update their reporting, particularly as the data evolves and becomes ever more complex. The number of public companies in the U.S. is expected to rise by 7% over the next two years, according to a recent Goldman Sachs report. This is nearly five times the 2% annual growth rate in the U.S. economy. This increase in publicly listed companies will give rise to a new breed of CFO: a mindset that will increase the firm’s ability to be relevant in an era of ever-increasing accountability, while being more effective in its use of resources and aligning its organization with the organization’s goals.

New CFOs will seek to help create value by leveraging new technologies such as artificial intelligence, to gain and maintain market insight, protect a business from risk, and address regulatory challenges such as cybersecurity, including issues related to GDPR. Change requires financial investment. Having the right resources in place to help with sustainability decisions will be critical to ensuring sustainability delivers its promise.

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