480: Bringing a Metric to Life | Mark Patrick, CFO, Syngenta

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Sometime in the next three to six months, Syngenta AG, a Swiss-based agribusiness company, is expecting to welcome a clan of ambitious offspring. Months, even years in the making, these fruit from a forward-looking group are born from a cross-functional team—one tasked with helping the $13.5 billion enterprise correctly measure its expansive sustainability initiatives.

To be clear, the aforementioned "offspring" are new metrics, the output of an ambitious metrics "refresh" triggered in part by the firm's determination to routinely evaluate the numbers intended to provide Syngenta management as well stakeholders with a clear-eyed view of its sustainability efforts.

"It's all good and well establishing a new metric, but if you can't measure and monitor it, then it has no value in any shape or form," explains Syngenta CFO Mark Patrick, who first mentioned the sustainability "refresh" when asked about metrics that had become increasingly top-of-mind for finance—but were clearly "nonfinancial" or beyond the realm of traditional finance.

While Patrick said that he was reluctant to discuss the yet-to-be-released metrics, he suggests that when it comes to finance, the innovation is not what the metrics measure but how they came to be—and how Patrick's finance team operated as part of a larger cross-functional effort where finance partnered with the sustainability group and the company at large.

"We're actually the custodians of value, and it's about how do we work with those within those cross-functional teams to ensure that we're moving down the right path and investing in the things that are going to give us the greatest chance for success tomorrow. And this has to be a relationship built on trust," he explains.

This trust, according to Patrick, is now being enriched by finance as it seeks to make metrics more visible across the organization and allow individual employees to measure how their work is bringing benefits to the company and contributing to its success.

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