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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

1 February 2024 – A business briefing produced by CISL and Accounting for Sustainability (A4S) examines the implications for CFOs and Finance Functions in supporting their businesses to become aligned with a sustainable future.

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Consensus is growing that businesses must become more sustainable and move away from short-term profit maximisation as their ultimate goal, in order to secure their long-term financial survival and to meet societal expectations of contributing to wellbeing for all people and planet. Alongside this, the body of financing and reporting requirements and regulations for corporate sustainability are rapidly emerging. To meet these requirements, companies need a suite of new sustainability skillsets, as well as evolved processes and reporting. 

This report focuses on the implications for corporate Finance Functions, exploring the changes, capabilities and tools required for Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and their teams to support the transformation and alignment of their organisations to purpose and sustainability that boards of directors will need to lead. Among the key enablers that are needed to help Finance Functions adapt to this changing environment outlined in the report are:

  • sustainability knowledge and professional skills development supported by educational establishment and relevant professional bodies 
  •  access to relevant data, particularly on Scope 3 emissions and social and ecosystem impacts
  • systems and software to enable the integration of sustainability and financial information 
  • conceptual and technical developments to define methodologies and standards in specific accounting areas 
  • coherence of standards, regulations and frameworks globally to avoid Finance Functions spending all their resources keeping up to date with changing frameworks at the expense of driving sustainability improvements, and  
  • collaboration and sharing from leading companies of their learnings among each other and with those who follow, rather than each company having to start from scratch. 

CFOs will play a critical role in this transformation process alongside other business functions. The report also presents some brief best-practice examples from leading companies, and outlines the vital importance of prompt action by CFOs to drive organisational change towards sustainability. 

Citing this report

University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL). (2024). Broadening the horizon: How CFOs and Finance Functions can help drive corporate sustainability. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.

Published: February 2024

Authors and acknowledgements

Lead author: Richard Marshall (CFO of Great Yellow Ltd and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants)

This briefing was compiled with editorial support from Katie Parker and Bianca Drotleff. The author and CISL would also like to thank colleagues at Accounting for Sustainability for their invaluable contribution that helped highlight existing resources and case studies for corporate finance.

The author would like to thank Ben Kellard, Gillian Secrett, Dr Nina Seega, Rebecca Doggwiler and Thomas Vergunst at CISL and Fabrizio Palmucci at Impactivise for their feedback and valuable input.


The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL or any of its individual business partners or clients.


Copyright © 2024 University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL). Some rights reserved. The material featured in this publication is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)