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F4TF Awards: show that sustainability is embedded

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 28 May 2021

Finance for the Future judge John Lelliott outlines the vital role the awards play in raising the profile of sustainability in the business environment.

The application period for the Finance for the Future (F4TF) Awards has been extended to Friday 18 June 2021. John Lelliott OBE is one of this year’s judges. He says applicants must demonstrate that sustainability is embedded in their organisations.

Lelliott knows what it is like to be a winner. The Crown Estate, where he was the Finance Director, won a F4TF Award in 2014 for its integrated reporting and Lelliott subsequently became a judge. 

He is an experienced non-executive director (NED), including working as a NED for the Environment Agency, the Covent Garden Market Authority, and the University Hospital Dorset. He has been Chair of Capitals Coalition (formally the Natural Capital Coalition) since July 2016 and a member of HRH The Prince of Wales Accounting for Sustainability Project (A4S) Advisory Council, amongst many other roles.

Importantly, Lelliott has gone from finance director to award winner to judge – a process which gives him a unique perspective. He says: “The CFO provides the leadership framework for innovative financing. It is so important the CFO is on board. Whether you're a public company, a private company or a public sector organisation, everything revolves around access to finance, cashflows, affordability and opportunity.”

He continues: “It is the finance team that is used to looking at risks and opportunities. It is also used to bring data together and turn that data into useful information that forms the basis of good investment and business decisions.”

He is at pains to point out that if you have truly embedded sustainability in all your organisation's processes, there should be no real need to talk about sustainability separately or have a separate sustainability report. “Sustainability should be business as usual,” he says.

Lelliott says the F4TF Awards play a vital role in raising the profile of sustainability in the business environment. “It’s also about the kudos they bring to an organisation,” he says. “The awards say the winners are the best in class and that they are taking sustainability seriously in their business decisions. They also say that you are a well-run organisation and that you're not prepared to sit back and wait for others to lead, but that you are prepared to tackle the issues head on.”

He says that, looking back, sustainability in the business environment has become much more mainstream. “You can see this in the applications for the Awards,” he says. “The Awards show how the applicants are meeting sustainability challenges and embedding their approach into their organisations, often far beyond regulatory requirements.”

He continues: “In the 2019 Awards, ABN AMRO was a winner, and they demonstrated not only how it was embedding sustainability in its own operations, but it was also looking at how its customers were embedding it in their operations too.” He has also, as a NED on NHS boards, found applications from NHS Trusts not only interesting but also instructive.

What has become apparent to Lelliott since he first became involved with the Awards is that applicants have to tell their story if they are to win, not just report outcomes within a framework, and make that story relatable.

So, what is Lelliott looking for in this year’s Awards entries? “I am, of course, looking for evidence that sustainability has been truly embedded in the organisation. I also want to see how the finance department is involved. How did it lead and how did it bring the project together? And, today, you increasingly need an element of assurance – assurance that what you're saying is true – and I would like to see examples of that,” he responds.

“The strength of the finance team is also in choosing which metrics are important and trend analysis is important too. You also need achievable targets.”

Lelliott reminds us that the Awards are global and this year, as in previous years, the judges are expecting a plethora of applications from around the world that tell a story and show evidence of outcomes.

To find out more or enter the awards please visit the Finance for the Future website or contact Olivia.cox@icaew.com.