6 Contributor Insights from “The Business Case for Doing Good” Webinar

The Business Case for doing good - part of the 'Building Resilience' series of webinars from FinBiz2030

Over 1,500 people from 96 countries joined our first #FinBiz 2030 online series of 2021 to learn more about the business case for the sustainable development agenda.

The webinar was an opportunity to hear from leaders who have implemented responsible business solutions, and contributed to a changing culture around positive impact.

The 3 keynote speakers at the event gave their unique insights and offered practical advice to participants.  Check out some of the top tips and hints below, from Maura Hodge, KPMG Partner, National ESG Assurance Leader, Gareth Parkin, CFO and Senior Vice President at Messer Americas, Nomindari Enkthur, CEO, Mongolian Sustainable Finance Association.

Kate Robertson, Co-Founder of One Young World opened the event

Whatever we think about the Sustainable Development Goals, if we don’t know how to count, account for and audit what we’re doing there is no progress. The importance for everybody who is in finance and accounting is to understand that you will be the ones who account for the progress, let alone drive the progress. Without you there will be no progress.

Kate spoke about the importance of having people in positions of finance and accounting within organisations who are committed to sustainability. Kate highlighted the context that the Sustainable Development Goals are no longer about shifts in personal actions but that they demand a scale of change that is almost beyond our imagining. And she highlighted the ‘good news’ that the businesses who are adapting to sustainable models are the businesses who are doing well and achieving better results for their organisations.

Paul Parks, CPA, CGMA, Director, AICPA provided a global context

What we are talking about here is the business case for sustainability. When the largest investment firm in the world [BlackRock] says ‘I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental change in finance’ it got a lot of global attention. This movement has power behind it, the momentum is building, it is much more than just about the environment.

Paul gave a compelling introduction outlining the global shift towards sustainability in both private and public organisations. He spoke about how sustainability has always been about long-term resilience and value creation describing organisational shifts from shareholder primacy to managing the business for all stakeholders. Paul made the case for financial professionals to recognise and lead the shift from a short-term focus to managing businesses for the long-term, referencing research which proves that taking care of the needs of all stakeholders, in turn, enhances shareholder value.

Keynote speaker: Maura Hodge, KPMG Partner, National ESG Assurance Leader

Everything we do as a firm can have an ESG lens on it. For me success looks like having everyone within our firm focused on the important issues around sustainability and how they are built into their day-to-day work.

Maura offered some invaluable and practical insights from her experience spearheading the integration of ESG within her organisation. Maura concluded by stressing the time is now for sustainability issues.

Maura’s Top Tips; how to kick-start an ESG journey in your organisation 1) Know your purpose, 2) Develop a vision then break it down to actionable steps 3) Leverage your skills and your network.

Keynote speaker: Gareth Parkin, CFO and Senior Vice President at Messer Americas

We as financial leaders can shape a corporation and shape the future. We are the strategic partner and leader in business in every sense.

Gareth began by examining the fundamental role of deploying capital and the need to move on and think about organisational portfolios and how to increase spend on sustainable objectives. Gareth described his own experience and how ESG is now an embedded part of his organisation’s credit rating and what his investors want to know about. He also shared examples of trends that will deliver true economic value and deliver sustainable impact, e.g. in the US decarbonisation economy, hydrogen mobility was a pipe dream a few years ago and needed government backing previously; this isn’t the case anymore. Gareth believes that we are now on the cusp and if corporations are aligning the quality of their earnings with sustainability, it is a process that will be here for decades.

Gareth’s Top Tips; building a business case for investment in sustainable growth A traditional business case and a business case for doing good are not mutually exclusive but you need to sometimes think of these larger investments in a slightly different way. 1) Think long-term, this goes beyond a traditional contract term of 15-20years into generational terms. You need to shift the mindset 2) Look at how to lower capital costs and risks eg. look to partner with people to share some of the financial risks or some of the technology risks. 3) As a CFO, don’t just look at the risk, look at the strategic opportunity.

Keynote speaker: Nomindari Enkthur, CEO, Mongolian Sustainable Finance Association

The real challenge I believe we are facing right now is making sure change is happening and that actual money is flowing into projects that are cleaner and more sustainable. We could endlessly debate the merits and cost benefits of sustainability regulation and business practices but we just have to accept that it is probably the most profitable business strategy of human history.

Nomindari spoke about how in Mongolia the banking sector has been a driver for change, embarking on a sustainable finance journey which resulted in the adoption of a national sustainable finance strategy and principles across the sector.  She also outlined how the banking sector has inspired other business communities in the country.

Nomindari’s Top Tips: sustainability can be driven from the bottom up with a market based approach, even in a country where the government is not so active on sustainability policies. Change can be driven from the market itself.

The power that we have as financial and business professionals is just endless, so please use it proactively and ignite change wherever you are.

Michael Izza, CEO, ICAEW and Chairman, Chartered Accountants Worldwide concluded the event.

Michael concluded the webinar by challenging participants:

What we must do from here, is build more resilient and sustainable economies, but to do that we have to be prepared to push the boundaries and we have to help the business world to rise to the challenge of sustainable development. The sustainability rocket has taken off and we all need to hold onto it as it is changing the world.

Watch the video highlights from the webinar and checkout details about the next webinar ‘Building Resilience’ Climate Change: Global leadership, local action – April 27.

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