ESG is a top investment priority among global CFOs, EY says

A recent poll from EY found that global CFOs are prioritising ESG funding, however, it would also be the first budget to cut, if needed

A new survey from consulting, assurance, tax and transaction service firm Ernst & Young (EY) found that ESG matters are a top priority for chief financial officers (CFOs) globally.

Polling 1,000 CFOs from 21 countries, the survey found that ESG was voted as a top priority, alongside technology and digital innovation (43%). The other categories CFOs were able to rank were supply chain resilience (37%), customer experience and offerings (34%), portfolio optimisation (34%), ecosystems and partnerships (29%), geographic market entry or exit (28%), and talent and culture (20%)

Of the CFOs included in the survey, 70% represented organisations with revenues of between US$1bn and US$5bn per annum, with the remaining representing organisations with revenues exceeding US$5bn per annumn. 

CFOS: Prioritising ESG but cutting investments 

In contrast, the survey also reported that ESG was the top category nominated by CFOs when asked which aspect they would cut investments from if needed (37%).

CFOs who actively engaged in “pursuing bold change” demonstrate a more extreme stance towards ESG initiatives. Within the survey, 51% indicated that ESG held utmost importance, compared to 42% who did not. However, they also stated a higher tendency to cut funding of ESG and climate change matters, with 44% in favour of reducing funding, compared to 32% who opposed it.

What's more, finance leaders who are creating lasting, meaningful change were shown to prioritise technology and analytics, culture, and the development of future leaders. In fact, the study shares that 14% of finance leaders pursuing “a bold agenda” are 1.4 times more likely to believe they have an above-average or best-in-class finance function today. Additionally, they were 1.7 times more likely to believe they will reach best-in-class status after transformation. 

Although the study highlights the growing urgency of prioritising ESG initiatives among CFOs, it also demonstrates that ESG funding would be cut first, if needed.


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