Once you have embarked upon a more sustainable business model, communicating your position to stakeholders, suppliers and customers will strengthen your position and add credibility to your claims. A good way to communicate your efforts is to produce a sustainability report. But be aware that producing a report is only valuable if you walk the talk.
We’ve seen many businesses rush into the reporting stage before they have clearly established their sustainability priorities and goals, and aligned them to their business strategy. The best place to start is to develop and embed your sustainability strategy. For ideas on what to include look at existing reporting frameworks such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) as they will help you identify any gaps in your sustainability strategy. Industry specific supplements to the GRI also help to provide ideas in areas that are relevant or important to your stakeholders..
Once you are confident in your sustainability strategy and have taken actual steps to implement it, a lot can be gained by effectively communicating this through a report. Customers and investors are increasingly aware of sustainability and are making purchasing choices as a result. Whether you like it or not, businesses are being judged on their actions. Clearly communicating your position makes it transparent to your customers and potential investors what you do and how you act. From this they can make more informed decisions.
As with all reports the right balance needs to be struck between engaging the reader (storytelling) and communicating the details (facts). While frameworks such as the GRI guide you on this journey, a good report conveys the details in a clear and comparable fashion while communicating the values of the business.
For organisations that have embedded sustainability into their strategy and operations, integrated reporting is the next step. Business today face heightened expectations, with turning a profit only one of the many criteria by which performance is measured. Rising in importance is the impact a company has on its stakeholders, society, and even the planet. Integrated reporting, which encompasses elements of financial reporting, sustainability reporting, and governance reporting within a single presentation, represents a growing trend that reflects these new expectations.
Integrated reporting is largely voluntary, with few countries implementing mandatory reporting in this area (for example South Africa and the UK). A number of initiatives are underway to develop frameworks, principles, codes and management systems, most notably by the International Integrated Reporting Committee (IIRC).
In the absence of a generally accepted framework, companies that wish to move toward integrated reporting may encounter several dilemmas around relevance, scope, assurance and other issues.
We can ensure you get the most from your sustainability reporting by working with you to: