Environmental and Social Risks and Opportunities: Questions for Directors to Ask 

CPA Canada has just released a new briefing for corporate directors, called “Environmental and Social Risks and Opportunities: Questions for Directors to Ask.” 

In just nine pages, this publication provides a fresh perspective on how environmental and social (E&S) issues – often disruptive to business – can represent important sources of not only business risk but also opportunities. Those opportunities for innovation in product and service offerings, in technologies and operations, in competitive advantage and in reputation. In short, this publication is not a primer on corporate sustainability, but a practical aid for directors in paying the requisite forward-looking attention to how management is assessing and addressing current and possible future E&S issues that have an impact on present and future value creation and stakeholder interests. 

Stakeholders today, including investors, are interested not only in how a company manages its impacts on the environment and society, but how it anticipates and responds to E&S issues that affect a company today or may do so tomorrow. The first part of the briefing, therefore, highlights how E&S issues can have potentially significant implications for a company’s business model, supply chains, strategy, investment decisions and its resilience in difficult times. One way or another, the possible impact of E&S issues on present and future value creation cannot be overlooked – as evidenced by the rise of ESG-hungry investors. The briefing also highlights the importance of the board’s role in oversight of stakeholder engagement and of reliable, meaningful disclosures about E&S performance. 

The questions in the first part of the briefing will help directors in quickly deciding what aspects of a company's business and future prospects may be affected by E&S issues, and what to enquire about and monitor in their oversight role. Indeed, investors and other stakeholders increasingly expect boards to be able to demonstrate their diligence and competence in this regard. 

To supplement the briefing and questions, the second part of the publication provides additional facts and commentary about each of the six main areas of board attention addressed in the first part, together with a summary of the business implications of some typical environmental and social issues, and finally lists some additional information sources.

The publication can be accessed and downloaded free at: