Sustainability reporting trends
Sustainability is a trending topic and since 2010, a large number of American companies have started a sustainability reporting: according to the G&A Institute, the proportion of S&P 500 companies that issue a sustainability report rose from less than 20% in 2011 to more than 80% in 2015. How will this reporting trend evolve over time?
First, let’s get back to the basics: what should a relevant sustainability report contain? Frameworks such as GRI are here to guide you: they provide a large list of sustainability issues a company should deal with. In addition to these guidelines, a materiality analysis helps focus on topics that matter most to your company. But once you’ve set up your list of material issues and sustainability KPIs, for how long will this list be relevant: one year? two? five?
If we come back to the main reasons why companies have started their sustainability reporting, we can find the following ones:
Answering to rating agencies such as DJSI, CDP
Communicating with stakeholders (investor, clients, NGOs, employees, etc.)
Monitoring the company sustainability strategy
Complying with regulation
You may have noticed (and perhaps experienced yourself) that all these requirements change over time. Every year, rating agencies will add new questions either regarding new topics or for a more specific sectoral/regional approach. Stakeholders will request new information on sustainability issues and governments may add regulations on specific topics.
Sustainability reporting evolutions
If you haven’t changed your sustainability reporting in the past couple of years, here are some evolutions you may want to implement:
Sector specific indicators
Scope 3 GHG emissions
Supply chain assessments
Protection of personal data
United Nation Sustainable Development Goals
More examples can be found in the sustainability trends for 2017 report from SustainAbility.
In addition to these new issues, you must consider your company’s own evolution: international expansion, the acquisition of another company or the launch of a new activity will probably raise new sustainability issues.
As a result, the more time passes, the less relevant your initial sustainability reporting will be, because it will miss a growing number of new sustainability topics faced by your organisation.
As sustainability issues for a company evolve over time, so should its reporting. Adjusting your sustainability reporting can become costly and time-consuming depending on the reporting tool you use. If your sustainability reporting tool is not flexible enough to support your reporting evolution, you may not be able to collect new categories of data. This in turn will affect your ability to manage new sustainability issues and to meet your stakeholders’ requests.