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Global CFOs pledge $500 billion toward UN’s 2030 sustainability goals

September 21, 2021, 10:00 AM UTC

Good morning! This is Fortune‘s Rey Mashayekhi, filling in for Sheryl today and Wednesday.

Today marks the beginning of the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly, as leaders and diplomats from around the world convene at the UN’s headquarters in Manhattan for a week of speeches, meetings, and global geo-political intrigue.

This year, a group of CFOs from companies as diverse as AB InBev, BASF, H&M, PIMCO, and Verizon have used the occasion to pledge their commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Created in 2015, the SDGs are a “blueprint” of 17 ambitious goals—among them, the eradication of poverty and hunger, the attainment of gender equality, and access to affordable and clean energy for all—that are meant to be achieved by the year 2030.

Lofty as those goals are, the CFOs—who represent 60 companies worth a combined $1.7 trillion in market capitalization—on Monday announced a commitment to collectively invest more than $500 billion over the next five years toward reaching the SDGs. Additionally, they committed to tying “close to 50 percent of all corporate financing to sustainability performance,” including plans to issue hundreds of billions of dollars in new “sustainable finance instruments,” such as sustainability-linked bonds.

The CFOs are all part of the UN Global Compact CFO Taskforce, which was formed in 2019 under the UN’s Global Compact corporate sustainability initiative. According to the UN, the task force was formed to “inspire a new meaning for the role of CFOs as the architects of long-term sustainable value creation,” and to raise awareness of the “transformative impact of corporate finance across financial markets, the global economy, and society as a whole.” In short, the UN understands the enormous influence—both positive and negative—that corporations can have across a variety of socio-economic issues, and recognizes that it needs to recruit major companies (and their CFOs) as stakeholders if it hopes to make a dent in its SDGs by the end of this decade.

The task force said those initial financial commitments should increase as it seeks to recruit “hundreds” of participating companies willing to “radically scale up the amount of corporate investment aligned to sustainability goals and outcomes.” If successful, it believes a “global movement of finance chiefs and their corporations” could eventually mobilize trillions of investment dollars annually in support of the UN’s SDGs.

Of course, all of this work is much easier said than done. It’s easy to be pessimistic about the global community’s ability to work together and meet the world’s myriad challenges—and cynical over whether for-profit corporations have either the means or willingness to help out. But as recent years have shown us, the fact remains that whether it’s environmental sustainability or social equality, more companies than ever are looking to step up and make a good-faith effort to help implement meaningful change. Whether we achieve our goals by 2030 or not, it does not hurt to try.


As always, you’ll find the rest of today’s newsletter below. Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow.

Rey Mashayekhi
rey.mashayekhi@fortune.com
@reym12

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Join Fortune on September 28 for its Global Sustainability Forum. The one-day virtual conference will include top-level executives, investors, and decision-makers from across the globe. Best practices in engaging in sustainability transformation and moving “from pledge to practice” will be among the topics. Featured speakers include Michele Buck, chair, president and CEO of The Hershey Company; Jim Fitterling, chairman and CEO of Dow; Jesper Brodin, CEO of Ingka Group; Rich Lesser, CEO of Boston Consulting Group; and Mike Roman, chairman and CEO of 3M. You can apply for the event here.

Big deal

It won’t come as a surprise to many CFOs out there that corporate finance leaders are increasingly being called upon to handle roles and responsibilities outside of their traditional purviews. Global consulting firm Protiviti has provided new insight into these evolving dynamics with its 2021 Finance Trends Survey, which was released last week and garnered the insights of more than 475 CFOs and VPs of finance worldwide. Respondents noted that “beyond-finance” responsibilities like data security and analytics now command a considerable amount of their attention; they identified their top three job priorities as security and privacy of data, enhancing data analytics, and data analytics process improvement, in that order—with those issues ranking ahead of more conventional matters like financial planning and analysis, regulatory challenges, and financial risk management. “CFOs are informing and shaping cybersecurity investments and capabilities, long-term talent strategies, and supply chain management decisions, among other previously nontraditional areas for finance teams,” the report said.

Going deeper

Have you been checking in on your employees and hearing back that everything’s “fine” with them? Chances are that’s not exactly the truth. Fortune's Megan Leonhardt examines a new survey from SilverCloud Health, which took the pulse of more than 2,000 employed U.S. adults this past summer. For starters, the survey found that 84% of respondents said they rarely mean it every time they say they’re “fine” or “good,” and that more than two-thirds have clinically measurable mental health symptoms of anxiety or depression. Employees tend to hide such mental health issues, out of fear that word could get out and that their bosses could even penalize them, according to psychologist and SilverCloud senior digital health scientist Jorge Palacios. In turn, those struggles usually hinder worker productivity and increase the likelihood that someone will quit their job—an especially pertinent matter during the ongoing employee retention crisis known as the “Great Resignation.”

Leaderboard

Christine Janofsky was named senior vice president and CFO at eHealth, an online health insurance marketplace, effective September 20. She succeeds eHealth’s interim principal financial officer, John Pierantoni, who will continue with the company as chief accounting officer. Janofsky most recently served as senior vice president and chief accounting officer at Lincoln Financial Group.

David Charron was named CFO at WeCommerce, an e-commerce holding company, effective November 1. He succeeds Alex Persson, WeCommerce’s president and interim CFO, in the role. Charron most recently served as CFO of TeraGo, and previously served as CFO of Optiva.

Overheard

“Mr. Weisselberg is the boss. Mr. Weisselberg is also not an innocent party caught up as collateral damage.”

—Manhattan assistant district attorney Solomon Shinerock, speaking at a court hearing Monday for Allen Weisselberg, the former Trump Organization CFO facing charges for his role in an alleged tax evasion scheme. Shinerock was responding to claims made by Weisselberg’s attorney, who said he was concerned that his client could become “collateral damage” in the Manhattan DA’s investigations of the Trump Organization.

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