Innovative idea

Entry criteria

This award, open to an individual or group of individuals, including teams within organisations, recognises an innovative idea which has the potential to transform the role of the finance function to help achieve sustainable outcomes. Entrants should respond to one of a choice of three scenarios, each of which sets out various sustainability challenges an organisation and its finance function might face.

  • Are you currently studying for a career in finance and recognise the role of accounting and finance in delivering sustainable business models?
  • Are you seeking to inspire the next generation of accountants to innovate when it comes to defining the role of finance?
  • Are you an organisation grappling with challenges around sustainability and the role of finance in delivering a more sustainable business model? How are you looking to address the challenge?

Instead of awarding an initiative that has proven successful, this award recognises an innovative idea with great potential to transform the role of finance in business and achieve sustainable outcomes.

Each year we set a challenge that requires an innovative idea in response. Please note the focus of this award has changed for 2017. 

The award is for an individual or group of individuals including teams within organisations. This includes Business, Finance or Accounting students (e.g. MBA with a finance focus, Bachelor or Master in Accounting, Business or Finance etc…), entrepreneurs and qualified accountants.

Deadline for entry for this category is midnight (UK time) on Friday 1st September 2017.

The 2017 Challenge:    

Here are three scenario based ‘situations’ that a finance function or accountant might find themselves in today. Thinking beyond what is traditionally thought of as the finance function’s role, choose one of the scenarios and come up with a response. 

You must set out your idea and demonstrate how:

  • It is innovative.
  • It addresses the selected scenario.
  • You would go about doing it.
  • You will work out if it has been a success. e.g. how will it be measured?

Scenario A: An individual

Role: You are an accountant in the finance function of a Fortune 500 organisation and you have been researching integrated thinking and can see the value of adopting and evaluating a broader set of non-financial metrics. Your CFO is sceptical.

Challenge: Why might your CFO be sceptical and what information might you be able to gather and present to convince the CFO of the benefits of understanding a broader set of evaluation measures? How could these be used as part of the organisation’s decision making to enable long-term value creation?

Scenario B: Investors or growing/start-up enterprise

Role: You work in the finance function of a growing/start-up enterprise which is looking for investor funding.

Organisation: The investors you are talking to want to understand how the organisation is addressing a broad range of social and environmental aims in creating value for both of them (as the provider of financial capital) and for society more broadly. In order to attract an investor and raise funds, your organisation has a responsibility to communicate clear information to existing and potential investors that address their needs. 

Challenge: As a finance function with the growing/start-up enterprise how would you go about demonstrating how your business creates value?

Scenario C: Large business

Role: You work in the finance function for a large organisation which does not understand the interplay between its various financial and non-financial resources and relationships. (see note below)

Organisation: The business is currently operating in a siloed manner and so there are opportunities for more joined up thinking, e.g. the finance team have limited discussions with departments beyond financial measures. Finance can see there is an opportunity to improve both the information collected from across the business and how this information is used in decision making to increase the value created for both investors and for society more broadly.

Challenge: Finance can see the opportunity to support the business to evaluate each ‘capital’, in a commensurable way, and find a way to assess the interplay between the different capitals. How could you go about doing this? What does the opportunity look like? What information might you produce?

Note: The International Integrated Reporting Council’s Framework calls resources and relationships capitals - financial, human, natural, manufactured, intellectual and social and relationship. For example, a transaction may have an impact on employees (human capital), the environment (natural capital), local industry (social and relationship capital) etc. that ultimately has a financial impact on the business (financial capital).

What do we mean by "finance function"?

When referring to the finance function, we recognise it can take different forms. It can be a finance department reporting to a Finance Director, either centrally configured or dispersed across an organisation. For smaller organisations, the finance function can sometimes be external, such as its accountant. We will simply refer to the "finance function" to capture any of the various forms it may take.

Your proposal

Prepare a proposal setting out your idea either:

  • in writing (maximum of 1,500 words); 


  • as a short, filmed entry.  
    If you are submitting a film this should be no longer than 5 minutes. Please first upload this to YouTube and select ‘Unlisted’ from the upload drop down menu. This allows us to view the video but it doesn’t post it to YouTube publically. Then copy the URL it generates and paste the link within your submission.

Entrants can submit supporting documents in pdf, word or excel formats but this is not compulsory.

Make sure the following questions are covered in your proposal:

  • What is your idea? 
  • Which scenario your idea responds to and how? 
  • How you might measure success?
  • How this differs to ‘business as usual’?
  • What role will finance professionals play in ensuring its success?

The winner of this award will receive a £500 cash prize. A limited number of travel bursaries may be available to finalists entering this category. For more information, please contact Aude Bezler.

Please ensure you have reviewed and understood the Conditions of Entry before submitting your entry.

If you have any queries about the categories or awards process, please contact Aude Bezler, Awards & Events Marketing Manager.

Deadline for entry is midnight (UK time) on Friday 1st September 2017. Please note that this is only for this category as the deadline for all the other categories is Wednesday 31st May 2017.

Assessment process

Please note that the assessment process for the entries in this category is different than the assessment in the other awards categories. Details of the assessment process can be found here.


Watch the 2016 winner, The Public Services Lab, talking about their project to re-imagine public services delivery in Merseyside and build an understanding of outcome-focused services.

Read the full case study of their application.

Please note the focus of this award was different in 2016. The challenge for entrants was to develop a high level investment case or business plan for an innovative, new idea that would have tangible impacts on one or more of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.