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How CSOs Can Get the Support They Need From CFOs

How CSOs Can Get the Support They Need From CFOs

By Caroline Klatt, COO, Flowcarbon
November 10, 2023

It’s never been easy to be a chief sustainability officer — but today it seems even more challenging than ever:

  • Climate issues are escalating.
  • Pressure from consumers, investors, regulators and employees is growing.
  • Scrutiny of emission targets is increasing. 

Working with tight budgets and often-lean teams, CSOs are nevertheless charged with helping their companies navigate this ever-changing and ever-complex ESG landscape to achieve critical sustainability goals. Only by collaborating with their fellow c-suite peers can they gain buy-in, resources and impact.

At Flowcarbon, I work with many of these same executives on their carbon strategies. Through these conversations, I’ve come to recognize the chasm facing many leaders across the broader corporate leadership board who want to support sustainability generally but need help to build a bridge to their own specific business goals.

In this five-part series, I share my tips for gaining support — and driving impact — from each of your company’s key leaders by speaking their language and helping to solve their pain points as well. 

Make the Case for Your CFO

When it comes to sustainability issues, budgets and needs, here are three key sustainability topics that will get your CFO’s attention right now.

1. Regulators want to know more.
Yes, CFOs watch the bottom line. But they are also watching as governments increase emissions reporting requirements. Recently, California enacted two laws requiring large companies to report emissions while the SEC is readying its own climate reporting requirements.

  • Opportunity: We need to get ahead of reporting requirements. If not, we’ll face penalties.
  • Opportunity: More organizations — for example, Amazon — are requiring suppliers to track emissions for their own SEC disclosure requirements. If we don’t act, we will lose business.

2. Investors want to know more. Despite cries of “woke capitalism,” investors continue to vet companies on their sustainability records. A recent report by McKinsey & Co found, for example, that 85 percent of chief investment officers surveyed say ESG is an important factor in their investment decisions. (Also notable: 60 percent review their overall portfolio for ESG considerations while 80 percent assess individual company positions in the light of how ESG affects forecasted cash flows.)

  • Opportunity: McKinsey finds that most major investors are “prepared to pay a premium for companies that show a clear link between their ESG efforts and financial performance.”
  • Opportunity: Respondents want more clarity regarding long-term value, greater certainty about regulations, and practicable ESG-related frameworks.

3. Researchers already know more. Studies show that sustainability drives financial performance. For instance, a Rockefeller Asset Management and NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business analysis of more than 1,000 research papers finds that “sustainability initiatives at corporations appear to drive better financial performance” through mediating factors such as more innovation, higher operational efficiency and better risk management. 

  • Opportunity: Managing for a low-carbon future improves financials.
  • Opportunity: Improved financial performance due to ESG becomes more noticeable over longer time horizons.

As noted, CSOs care about the bottom-line too. To that end, there are many cost-effective ways to mitigate the effects of climate change — think: renewable energy, recycled materials and water stewardship for starters. At Flowcarbon, we also add carbon credits to the list as an efficient, affordable way to offset hard-to-abate scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.

But no matter the tools that serve or the arguments that resonate, the overall message is clear: Not investing in sustainability puts your company’s finances and futures at risk. Learn more about how Flowcarbon can help your company’s holistic carbon emissions strategy at flowcarbon.com

About Flowcarbon

Flowcarbon is a pioneering carbon finance and technology company working to scale the voluntary carbon market through innovative investment and carbon finance structures and sales.

Caroline Klatt is COO of Flowcarbon, which she co-founded in 2021.

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