The view from the President: Leading on responsible finance

CIMA President Nick Jackson, FCMA, CGMA

‘Widening corporate focus to a broader base of stakeholders means that finance leaders can also become the face of positive and much-needed change.’

In June this year, CIMA was one of a number of organisations from a wide range of sectors to call on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to put the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the heart of his COVID-19 recovery plans.

CIMA has also shown its commitment to sustainability by signing up to the UN Global Compact — because it is the right thing to do.

That is why I am highlighting responsible financial leadership during my presidential year, my point being, how can it not benefit everyone? It is the ethical thing to do. We have finite resources which will benefit more of us longer if we recognise that we are one part of a complex ecosystem and are mindful of the impact we have within that.

A 2017 report from The Business and Sustainable Development Commission showed that, if implemented, the SDGs could create at least $12 trillion in business opportunities in just 60 market hotspots by 2030, and the commission estimated this could be two to three times greater across the whole global economy. (See the commission's report at

To that end, in February, the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, the unified voice of CIMA and the AICPA, was also a co-signatory of an open letter, calling for accountancy professionals to make sustainability and the fight against climate change central to their work.

The Association's president and CEO, Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, FCMA, said that the global risks faced today, particularly environment-related risks, "are pushing our profession to expand its remit".

Ensuring that we are running our organisations responsibly and for the long term is non-negotiable if we want them to thrive. We owe it not just to our employees, but to those who feed our supply chains, who directly benefit from our products and services, or who depend on our success for their own wellbeing.

These are all areas where management accountants at every level have a key role to play, from proposing the business case for pursuing appropriate SDGs to board-level alignment of sustainability initiatives with corporate activities.

The SDGs are ambitious in their scope — they apply to all countries and make no distinction between developed and developing economies. They are also the responsibility of organisations of all kinds, of all sizes, and in all sectors.

Businesses have a particularly critical role to play in driving the global change and societal improvement that the UN is demanding. Business has the global influence and economic power needed to make the difference where it matters most — in the communities where people live and work.

COVID-19, no respecter of status or company size, showed us very starkly how interdependent our global lives are. It also showed extremely clearly why working in concert matters.

Widening corporate focus to a broader base of stakeholders means that finance leaders can also become the face of positive and much-needed change. Being in the vanguard of these necessary changes to the way we do business is also critical for finance professionals themselves as they move from their back-office functions to sit alongside the executive leadership team.

It is not just business that needs to transform, but also the finance professionals who are driving that process. Change requires buy-in from all those affected. If stakeholders can be convinced there is tangible benefit for them, they are likely to be more actively engaged.

In my view, it is this change which is very hard to argue against.


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