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Sustainability and the CFO: Standard Chartered Bank Perspectives

Presentation by Simon Connell, Global Head of Sustainability Strategy & Subhradeep Mohanty, Regional CFO, Africa & Middle East

About Standard Chartered Bank
  • Operates in 59 markets, predominantly across Asia, Africa and the Middle East
  • More than 160 years in business
  • Employs approx. 85,000 from 131 different countries
  • Among the top 100 largest companies listed on the London Stock Exchange

IFAC’s Professional Accountants in Business (PAIB) Advisory Group has been exploring the role of the CFO in enabling sustainability priorities in an organization. To hear a practical perspective on this, the group was joined at its recent meeting by Subhradeep Mohanty, Regional CFO, Africa & Middle East at Standard Chartered Bank, who shared insights on how the CFO and finance function are critical to enabling sustainable finance and incorporating financial and non-financial information into longer-term plans and monitoring and tracking progress against these.

Subhradeep emphasized the need for common language and awareness around sustainability across the organization, including ensuring specific responsibilities of the various teams are clearly defined. He also highlighted the importance of collaboration and integration among teams. Demonstrating this in practice, Subhradeep also invited his colleague, Simon Connell, Global Head of Sustainability Strategy to first share insights into how Standard Chartered is integrating sustainability across the bank.

Integrating Sustainability Across the Organization

With a bold ambition to be the world’s most sustainable and responsible bank, Standard Chartered Bank is focused on three areas where it can make a strong contribution through its business model: 

  • Accelerating zero - accelerating the transition to net zero economies across the 59 markets the bank operates in.
  • Lifting participation - ensuring everyone has a chance to participate in the global economy.
  • Resetting globalization - reforming the system from within to ensure transparency, fairness, and trust in global markets.

For Standard Chartered, sustainability goes beyond reporting frameworks. It is a core priority within the bank’s corporate strategy, influencing how it makes decisions, identifies opportunities, and manages risks across its:

  • Business – promoting sustainable finance to support sustainable economic growth, expanding renewables financing, and investing in sustainable infrastructure.
  • Operations – striving to be a responsible company promoting responsible and sustainable behaviors in its own operations and through its supply chain.
  • Communities – promoting inclusive communities to support economic inclusion in its markets and delivering community programs aimed at tackling inequality. 

By integrating sustainability across the organization, the bank aims to ensure a common understanding of its objectives and how they are trying to measure outcomes, so that collectively, the bank can deliver sustainable prosperity and uphold its brand promise to be ‘here for good.’

Standard Chartered has a bank-wide scorecard, that spans their three sustainability pillars and sets out their sustainability aspirations with targets and timelines aligned to their business strategy and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These aspirations include a commitment to net zero from its financed emissions by 2050 and in its own operations by 2030. The bank has also committed to mobilizing $35 billion (USD) towards clean technology between 2020 – 2024, already mobilizing $18.4 billion of that in 2020 alone. The bank is also measuring its wider supply chain emissions to help manage and reduce its scope 3 emissions and has a rolling program of carbon credits or offsets as a means of carbon pricing. Selected sustainability aspirations form 10% of the bank’s group scorecard for 2021, driving accountability and incentives across the bank. In addition, these measures are linked to a long-term incentives plan for the Group Chief Executive and Group Chief Financial Officer.

All of this is overseen by a cross-group sustainability forum, chaired by the Group Head of Conduct, Financial Crime and Compliance, with representatives from every business function across the bank. This ensures that across functions there is appropriate allocation of resources to deliver sustainability targets, an equivalent level of ambition and shared accountability.

Sustainability Reporting Approach

In the context of the fast-moving sustainability reporting space, characterized by various voluntary initiatives and no alignment around one global approach, Standard Chartered strives to both understand and inform market practice, with the ultimate aim to produce comparable and standardized information that enables decision making by investors and other stakeholders. 

Their reporting approach for 2021 focuses on six frameworks, mapping over 1,400 data points from key indices and analysts, and voluntary and regulatory reporting frameworks – all culminating in a reporting suite of six publications: Annual report and accounts, modern slavery statement, sustainability summary, task force on climate-related financial disclosure, SASB-alignment index, and UN PRB self-assessment.


CFO Considerations

Subhradeep Mohanty outlined some examples of CFO considerations to enable sustainable finance, categorized into two areas - catalyzing and stewarding the organization, and owning operational delivery of requirements.

Catalyzing and stewarding the organization

  • Strategy - for the CFO, strategy and its execution are key, and it is important to partner with others across the organization and drive a common understanding and agreement on the strategic objectives and targets, with a clear message that purpose and profit go hand-in-hand. It is not about trade-offs but finding opportunities to create value through commitments related to the environment and society which will also ultimately create value for shareholders at the same time as ensuring financial resilience for the company. The CFO and finance function then have a key role in incorporating and connecting both financial and non-financial information into longer-term plans and monitoring and tracking progress against these.
  • Investor relations – playing a role in engaging with investors, ratings agencies, and other stakeholders to communicate the strategy and performance.
  • Regulatory engagement – working with different regulatory bodies both centrally and locally across the jurisdictions the organization operates in, ensuring ongoing engagement on developments with areas such as reporting standards, risk measurement, and guidelines, etc.
  • Investment optimization – ensuring effective resource allocation and measuring the direct and indirect benefits of sustainability investments to monitor their effectiveness and returns. This is still a developing area that requires ongoing development of capabilities to continually improve the robustness of analysis and assessments.

Owning operational delivery of requirements

  • Measurement & reporting - establishing KPIs linked to longer-term plans, and ensuring relevant, compliant and accurate reporting in accordance with accounting standards. There is a fair amount of uncertainty in the reporting space at the moment, but it is important to stay engaged and participate in discussions as standards and requirements evolve.
  • Treasury management – plays an important part, for example balance sheet deployment, product development support, and stress testing.
  • Supply chain management – helping to drive a reduction in emissions across the supply chain, ensuring diversity and inclusion considerations, and supporting vendor evaluation.
  • Property – driving a reduction in emissions across the physical footprint. Approaches to measure, track and monitor these will continue to get more sophisticated over time and benefit the involvement of the finance team.

The insights shared during this presentation helped inform a discussion with the PAIB Advisory Group on how CFO and finance function roles are becoming more strategic, shifting from “business partnering” to “value partnering”. The group identified key ways in which the CFO and finance function can contribute in value partnering roles. See the article: CFOs and Finance Functions – from business partnering to value partnering.