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The Latest CFO Headache: The United Nations

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

CFOs face scrutiny from a wide range of sources: financial analysts, regulators, lawyers and accountants. A new body can now be added to this list, a body which is likely to cause some consternation. The U.N. last week formally castigated 86 global companies for failing to live up to the reporting requirements they agreed to when the companies became signatories of the UN Global Compact.


The scolding was undertaken by a coalition of global investors that are signatories to the U.N.’s Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), an organization created in 2006 that uses investors to try and force companies to adhere to a global set of corporate and social obligations. That coalition of investors manages assets of over $20 trillion, so they carry some weight.

The companies involved in the exercise include some well known names such as Visteon and Lionbridge Technologies from the U.S., Spice PLC from the U.K. and Orascom Construction Industries from Egypt. Specifically the report says the companies involved had not submitted a mandatory report on how they put the U.N. PRI initiative into action.

The report also praises companies that underwent a similar rebuke in 2009 but then submitted their reports. These companies included Bayer from Germany, Nikon from Japan and Inditex from Spain.

What the U.N. expects — and what many CFOs will find hard to achieve — is that companies need to play a large role in solving global issues such as climate change and poverty. As Gavin Power, Director of the U.N. Global Compact says: “The most critical challenges of our time…require a collective response involving investors, the corporate sector and all societal actors.” From that reading it seems that companies now have to bring about world peace and end hunger on top of delivering quarterly earnings. Many CFOs will think that is perhaps a responsibility too far.