- The concept of a chief value officer has emerged in recent years, with the growing emphasis on sustainability and creating value
- CFOs and CEOs are best placed to fill this crucial role
- The accounting profession’s focus on sustainability standards has attracted new people to the industry.
There aren’t many jobs advertised for chief value officers. In fact, if you scour one well-known jobs website for Australia and New Zealand, you get the same message: “Sorry, we couldn’t find anything”.
The formal positions might not exist yet but, for many organisations, the role of CVO is likely to become crucial.
Stepping up as CVO
The concept of a chief value officer has emerged in recent years as a person who is able to drive sustainable value creation for their organisation. At the recent World Congress of Accountants in Mumbai, the spotlight at one panel session was on how chief financial officers and chief executive officers are best placed to be chief value officers.
Filling that role means you need to understand the sustainability big picture, and how to examine the fine details of your business and provide practical insights to the board and stakeholders.
Now is a fantastic time for CFOs to step up and be the CVO, says Sanjay Rughani, chair of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) Professional Accountants in Business Advisory Group, which represents some three million accountants worldwide.
“For centuries, CFOs have been known to deal with value protection for the organisation,” he says. “I think the pendulum has to shift much more to value creation because we are one of those unique functions that understands business end to end.”
Focus on a sustainable future
Much of the congress in Mumbai looked at the whole area of sustainability and the role of the accounting profession in driving sustainability and being a trusted partner. Participants also explored “how CFOs can play a bigger role in the whole area of ESG [environmental, social, and governance], where we are clearly going to be the game changer,” Rughani says.
So, in a practical sense, what should a CFO as CVO focus on?
“In my experience as a CFO in recent years, it’s been important to bring the sustainability report together with the annual report,” said Rachel Grimes FCA, a past president of CA ANZ’s predecessor organisation and past president of IFAC. “Previously, it was just on the side.
“I really believe the CFO is there to help educate the board, senior management and everyone in the business. By bringing that report together, it’s really united the business, with a key focus to go forward.”
“Our stance as a profession on sustainability standards has attracted new people to our profession.”
Focusing on details works in a CFO’s favour in the CVO role.
“I think it’s important for an organisation to understand, if we are entering into offsets with carbon credits and so on, just exactly what we are investing in,” Grimes says. “Often, we look at that and say, ‘we’ve got that’ and it’s just a tick in a box. But when you pull it apart, it’s important to understand exactly what those investments are, and are they really helping the globe?
“Those cost benefits are a really important thing to understand and to look at, and I encourage you to really dig deep before entering into those contracts.”
Owning sustainability and value creation
The opportunity for the accounting profession is there for the taking, Grimes believes.
“I believe sustainability is something we must grab hold of, as a profession. With the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) being established and the two exposure drafts there, we must grab this and not let it go because it will be about data – and accountants are great at data and data analytics,” she says.
“At the same time, we must ensure our ethical standards are keeping pace because I think there’ll be enormous pressure on a lot of organisations, as they have to present how they’re progressing in terms of their footprint being reduced,” she adds.
Grimes says the growing emphasis on sustainability has a spin-off benefit for the profession.
“What’s really pleasing is that I believe our stance as a profession on sustainability standards has attracted new people to our profession who may not have otherwise considered accounting as their profession for life,” she says.
“I think it’s an exciting time for accountants. As Sanjay [Rughani] said, there’s never been a better time to be a CFO and we have such a broad mandate, we can really make a change.”
“There’s never been a better time to be a CFO … we can really make a change.”