Top CFOs pledge to drive sustainability at massive CFO East Africa ESG Summit

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Close to 100 CFOs from across East Africa came together at ALN House in Nairobi for the much-anticipated CFO East Africa ESG Summit, where all things sustainability, including the CFO’s role in driving the ESG agenda in organisations, were discussed.

A significant highlight from the event were the brainstorm sessions, where CFOs discussed the results of a CFO East Africa ESG survey, which was conducted over the past three months. A record 120 CFOs took part in the study, which yielded interesting results, including the fact that limited understanding of ESG frameworks is a challenge faced in embedding sustainability initiatives within organisations.

The event kicked off with a welcome from co-founder and community manager KC Rottok Chesaina, who provided an overview of the survey results. He thanked the CFOs for their participation in the survey and for turning up in large numbers for the summit, during a traditionally busy reporting period for finance teams.
Group CEO of East Africa Breweries Limited (EABL), Jane Karuku, took to the podium as the night’s keynote speaker to deliver a well-received address titled Why all executives should care about ESG.

“Investing in ESG is not just about goodwill; it is about enhancing shareholder value. Our strategy at EABL is aimed at delivering a positive impact on society everywhere we live, work, source and sell. To do this, we must promote positive drinking, champion inclusion and diversity and promote grain to glass sustainability,” she said.

“We are embarking on ESG by partnering with relevant stakeholders including the National Transport and Safety Authority with whom we have rolled out don’t drink and drive campaigns. Partnering with the Ministry of Education, we have reached over 300,000 youth across the region and we have also worked with the police in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to reach over 36,000 individuals with our Wrong Side of the Road programme,” she explained.

Tangible targets

During a panel discussion, Kenya Power finance head Stephen Vikiru educated the CFOs in attendance on ESG considerations in the public sector, while Edward Kerich, a partner at PwC in Kenya with responsibility for ESG advisory, gave broad insights on the ESG landscape across East Africa.

Finance director of Unilever East Africa Nelly Kiogora-Toroitich explained the journey the multinational has taken to tackle ESG within the fast-moving consumer goods value chain globally. Group CFO of Cold Solutions Jackline Engefu encouraged finance executives to begin considering the requirements of IFRS Sustainability Standards before they become compulsory in East Africa.

Mumo Kivuitu, who focuses on ESG & sustainability advisory at EY, challenged companies to form industry partnerships to address sustainability concerns.
“We are seeing great initiatives within individual companies but not enough is being done within different sectors to harness a multi-organisation approach,” he said.

Alkarim Jiwa, group finance and strategy director at Diamond Trust Bank, added, “Sustainability has to start with your purpose as an organisation. Within my entity, we have been on the ESG journey for many years. It began as a simple cost cutting exercise and now we have tangible targets like planting half a million trees by the end of 2024, which as finance and strategy director I have sleepless nights about but it is something that we are going to do because it is necessary.”

After roundtables, conducted in two groups, the formal programme ended on an upbeat note and East Africa’s leading finance executives took the opportunity to network while enjoying sundowners on the scenic ALN House balcony overlooking the lush Karura Forest.

The event was sponsored by community Principal Partner EY East Africa and also benefitted from sponsorship and knowledge sharing from summit Principal Partner PwC East Africa. Other Associate Partners who threw their weight behind the community were Safaricom and PaySpace by Deel as well as the hosts of the event, ALN & Adili.

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