CFO survey: A shifting focus on ESG in business

2021 CFO Insights Report from U.S. Bank found businesses navigating the delicate balance between cost cutting and investment, along with an increased emphasis on ESG.

Tags: Education, Public relations, Technology
Published: May 14, 2021

As 2021 brought vaccine rollouts and a renewed sense of optimism, U.S. Bank surveyed CFOs and senior finance leaders across industries to shine light on shifting priorities and business evolution during the recovery. We found businesses navigating the fine line between cost cutting and investment, along with an increased focus on issues involving environmental, social and governance (ESG).


In fact, 71% of finance leaders say their business’s focus on ESG has increased in the past 12 months,  including 80% of those generating more than $5 Billion in annual revenue. And while the focus on ESG was strong across industries, it was highest in energy and commodities (82%).

infographic from digital book

Finance teams play their part

Two-thirds of finance leaders say that the finance function should play an important role in addressing ESG issues, and three-quarters say they are clear about the role their team can play.

Practically speaking, what are finance teams doing? According to the survey data, 50% are assessing the environmental credentials of potential third parties and investments, and 45% are assessing the risk that climate change poses to the business’s operations and supply chains.

“People increasingly invest based on how socially responsible companies are, so it is also an important topic for investor relations, which is part of the broader finance team,” says Linda Zukauckas, CFO if market measurement firm Nielsen. “And as the leader of the team I am always thinking diversity, equity, and inclusion across the entire team.” 


To learn more about how U.S. finance teams are guiding their businesses toward sustainable growth, read the 2021 CFO Insights Report from U.S. Bank.