2021 Q2 Newsletter
The SEC Professionals Group Q2 meeting focused on ESG and financial reporting will be on Thursday, June 10 at 2:00 p.m. ET
Meet Lauren Uyeno, the new director of the SEC Professionals Group
San Francisco chapter member, Chris Power from Salesforce, discusses the role of accounting in ESG reporting
Meet the New Director of the SEC Professionals Group
SEC Professionals Group
Hello there! I’m so excited to join the team! A little bit about myself: I have spent the past five years building the user groups program at a data analytics software company. During my time there I was able to create easy processes for event coordination, build a leader resource center, and build a wonderful leader-to-leader community.
Outside of work, I am a proud dog mom to the most anxious, fearful, and the most handsome lil’ guy named Arlo. Before COVID, you would most likely find me at my favorite place on Earth, Disneyland. Today, I spend most of my days as a hermit, playing my Nintendo Switch or dreaming about which National Park I should visit next.
What are you most excited for with the SEC Pro Group?
I am the most excited to get to know each and every one of you. One of my top priorities is to make sure that you feel heard, supported, and valued as a member of this special community. Without you, your time, and effort, the SEC Pro Group would not exist.
What is something important to you or that you are passionate about outside of work?
Lately, remembering simple things like compassion, gratitude, and humility have been important to me. Being stuck at home the past year has really taught me to slow down since I don’t have the ability to travel or indulge in entertainment. I think about how lucky I am to have a job, a supportive family, and a place to live. I think a lot about helping others during these crazy times.
With those three things in mind, I am more conscious of how I approach decisions whether it’s professional or personal. At the end of the day, I want to help people.
If you could do another job for just one day, what would it be?
I think it would be really fun to be a Disneyland Jungle Cruise Skipper. I think I could kill at all the dad jokes.
Who would you swap places with for a day and why?
Honestly, my dog. I do catch myself staring at him during the work week and think, “Geez, it must be nice to nap in the sun all day and get one Greenie for a snack.”
Motto or personal mantra?
Be a good person.
Hometown: Fountain Valley, CA
Undergrad alma mater: Cal State Long Beach
Favorite food: California Burritos
Last book I read: The Particulars of Peter by Kelly Conaboy (If you have a pet and are obsessed, I highly recommend it.)
Last show I binge-watched: The Mandalorian
First concert: *NSYNC
Favorite sports team: Los Angeles Angels
The Role of Accounting in ESG Reporting
A Conversation with Chris Power from Salesforce
Senior Manager, Technical Accounting & SEC Reporting
Despite a dramatic increase in the number of companies that issue sustainability reports, it seems likely the SEC will mandate some form of ESG (environmental, social, and governance) disclosure. When that day comes, corporate accountants will have a critical role to play in their companies’ ESG reporting.
“Stakeholders and investors want more transparency around sustainability and social impact,” says Chris Power, Senior Manager, Technical Accounting & SEC Reporting, at Salesforce.com Inc. (NYSE: CRM). “But the question is how do you measure impact and how do you report it?”
This is the question Chris has asked and answered many times in his role supporting the Salesforce sustainability team.
Few U.S. companies can match Salesforce in its commitment to stakeholder capitalism and transparent disclosure around ESG topics. Its annual Stakeholder Impact Report, a comprehensive overview of all Salesforce sustainability programs, is going on 10 years now. Additionally, Salesforce was one of the early companies to create a breakout section for ESG disclosures in its Form 10-K (page 52) and Proxy Statement (page 24). In April, Salesforce announced its support for the SEC’s initiative to evaluate its climate disclosure rules and called for mandatory climate disclosures.
Four years ago Chris got involved with the sustainability team to structure a virtual power purchase agreement so it wouldn’t result in adverse accounting consequences. The transaction was a way for Salesforce to offset some of its energy usage with renewable energy, and at the same time to help a developer create two wind farms.
“I have a passion for these topics and Salesforce is taking a lot of action on ESG topics across the board,” says Chris. “There was increasing demand from our stakeholders and investors for this kind of information. Over time, my participation with the sustainability team expanded.”
At Salesforce, financial reporting influences ESG reporting
Today, the role Chris performs in finance is technical accounting related to ESG matters and SEC reporting. “My technical accounting now is focused on issues that are not in accordance with U.S. GAAP,” he says. “Things like applying the greenhouse gas protocol to our carbon emissions calculations.”
Chris and his team apply the same level of rigor to ESG reporting as they do to financial reporting. The Salesforce finance team set up a similar process to support effective ESG disclosure, to explain
the programs, how they are related to corporate strategy, disclose goals and key metrics, and what kind of progress Salesforce is making toward reaching its goals.
“That’s my role now,” he says. “I’m taking what is already very familiar to an accountant, which is taking systems and processes, and applying them to a new set of information.”
Over the four years since Chris began working with the sustainability team on the Salesforce Stakeholder Impact Report, reporting has evolved to a more rigorous, data-driven approach. Chris and his team are focused on the Stakeholder Impact Report Summary, 18 pages that summarize all impact calculations and data that reflect the company’s sustainability goals and its progress toward these goals over time. Salesforce uses multiple methods to calculate impact, including the five leading ESG frameworks.
The document also goes into great detail about the scope of the report and the methodology used to calculate impact disclosures. The SEC reporting team reviews the report using the same procedures as they do SEC filings.
The finance organization was influential in expanding the independent review of Salesforce ESG metrics. Since the 2018 the Stakeholder Impact Report, Ernst & Young has audited the company’s carbon emissions disclosures. In fiscal year 2021, EY’s review expanded to include selected diversity and inclusion metrics, and the company’s annual social value metric. (Page 23, Supporting Our Communities)
Included in the social value metric is $1.4 billion worth of technology that Salesforce donated to 51,000 non-profit customers.
“Assurance signals to our stakeholders and investors that these metrics matter to us,” says Chris. “Our executives are very proud of this disclosure, and now they can discuss it with confidence. We hear them referencing it on investor conference calls and in customer meetings.”
Build it and they will come: the Salesforce Sustainability Cloud
“Most of us think of assurance as a necessary cost, but in our case, it opened up a new product opportunity,” says Chris. “The Salesforce Sustainability Cloud is an outcome of our reporting evolution.”
Years of manually tracking carbon data in Google Sheets became a major pain point, not to mention that it didn’t lend itself to a Big Four audit review process. The tech team built an app on the Salesforce platform to help the sustainability team manage the carbon accounting process. It was so successful, that a year later, it became the foundation for a new product: the Salesforce Sustainability Cloud.
It’s a carbon accounting tool supported by Salesforce to help companies understand their carbon footprint and drive climate action. Chris says Sustainability Cloud is a great example of how ESG informs the Salesforce business strategy.
“We’re a technology company with a huge customer base,” says Chris. “Sustainability Cloud is relevant and important, and a tool that can really make a difference in driving climate action.”
The ESG reporting career opportunity
Chris encourages SEC Pro Group members to consider ESG accounting and reporting as a great career opportunity. Accountants are well positioned for an ESG role because it’s driven by data-collection, process, analysis, and increasingly corporate strategy. And it’s interesting. Around every corner, there is a new intellectual challenge.
To underscore his point, Chris shares that at a recent Salesforce employee town hall, the head of sustainability said, “accountants will save the world.” His point was that finance professionals have the ability to put the spotlight on important metrics, and to drive transparency and accountability for ESG.
“I believe this,” says Chris. “I’m proud to work on our ESG accounting. I can really see the fruits of my labor fairly quickly because it’s developing so fast.”
The Time is Now: Get Ready for the Intersection of ESG and Financial Reporting
In this 90-meeting virtual meeting, we’ll discuss why ESG is increasingly top-of-mind for capital markets and regulators, and what this means for finance teams.
Summer is here! (And so is 10-Q Season): What to Know for Your Q2 Filing.
Join us as we discuss the top things to keep in mind as you prepare for filing season. We will review general updates, dive into recent ESG language disclosures, and answer your questions live.
Disclosure Effectiveness Committee
The committee met in May for their annual meeting to review disclosure modernization and effectiveness best practices. Visit the committee page to review the slide deck and other resources.
Visit Committee Page
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