The empowered enterprise: How CFOs are putting insight at the heart of a purpose and performance-driven business

and corruption. In short, it’s clear that businesses that don’t adapt will soon suffer.

Halford believes the CFO is crucial in defining not only how the business plays its role in wider society –but also in how it views itself alongside the growing and improving competition.

“The whole issue of purpose is wrapped up in the question of what will help my business stand out from the crowd? What do we want to do that will resonate with our employees and will make them proud to work for us? How can we help our communities? The word ‘purpose’ is real – it’s not just something you put on the shelf and pick back up occasionally.”

These questions are at the heart of what Standard Chartered does in its environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting. And it is leading to clear action: the bank recently launched its first sustainability bond, aiming to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges in underfunded regions, and bringing cheap and reliable financing to where it matters most, it seems clear that the bank is serious about its obligations. Indeed, the majority of the €500m bond proceeds will finance the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in emerging markets, including providing good jobs and growth, helping develop industry and infrastructure, and supporting affordable and clean energy.

A broader perspective Integrating a company’s purpose into how it plans to grow, where it wants to operate, and how it sees its place in the larger ecosystem are questions that few organisations might naturally direct towards finance. But the explosion of new sources of data – and the ability to analyse how they affect both the bottom line and broader questions of sustainability – means that this is beginning to change. “We are seeing companies making strides in areas like emissions and supply chain and clean energy,” says Vivek Saxena. “And it requires a clear framework in terms of disclosure and reporting. Because ESG is still quite a nebulous area with lots of different definitions, that framework still needs work and refinement.”

“Finance has a background in analysis,” continues Saxena, “so that means ownership of ESG analysis can be given to finance teams: they have reporting skills and experience working with regulators, so it’s a natural fit.”

Ilkka Hara agrees that the CFO must lead on the question of purpose and that the uniqueness of the role makes that contribution even more vital. “I think from a CFO perspective, you can bring into the game quite an interesting perspective: how do you make the mission live? How is our vision creating the best people for experience for people? And then

Finance Director Europe /

also what is our actual performance on delivering that to our customers? So, it creates a loop. “But I think where CFOs can actually make a big contribution in this area is not only internally, but beyond that. We need to be working with the customer, but also more importantly we should be interacting with all of the investors and other stakeholders to find out what they expect of us.”

Painting the picture

Driving that external communication effectively requires an in-depth understanding of what makes the company tick, what risks it faces, and how it plans to mitigate them. “I talk to investors all the time, and they want to know what we’re doing to drive ESG initiatives,” says Ed Fitzpatrick. “They want to know if we’re plugged into our communities around the globe and whether we’re making an impact on the environment – how are we governed?” So the more that gets automated and put through into dashboards and measured, the more you can improve. And I think we’ve done a decent job at that, we’re thinking about diversity, inclusion and so on. And as the demands to see action from outside voices grow, we are already in a strong position to provide that insight.”

Fitzpatrick explains that every senior leader at the company has a role to play in delivering on Genpact’s purpose: “For example, while I’m the CFO, the infrastructure team also ultimately reports into me, which includes our transport facilities around the world. We are extremely focused on

understanding and reducing our carbon footprint, for instance.”

“The whole question of purpose is wrapped up in that: what is it that’s going to make my business stand out from the crowd? What is it that we want to do that will resonate with our employees and will make them proud of working for us?”

Andy Halford, CFO, Standard Chartered

All this is important: “We don’t just act on ESG because it’s the right thing to do, it also adds value.” Hara agrees that for many CFOs, the dialogue with investors, staff and other stakeholders has changed enormously in recent years. “A few years ago, you tended to have discussions around ESG with experts from time to time,” he says. “Now you rarely have a meeting where you wouldn’t talk about ESG.”


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