5 Keys to Producing Successful Sustainability Reports
The Engineer posted on November 14, 2014 | 7413 views

business, sustainability, manufacturing, thomasnetMore than 90 percent of the world’s most profitable organizations engage in some form of sustainability reporting. It’s not so much a chicken-or-the-egg question to ask whether organizations that have achieved sustainability successes are profitable as a result of reporting or reporting organizations do so simply because they have achieved market-leading financial performance and feel they ought to report because they are in that prestigious sphere.

Nevertheless, it’s clear successful global manufacturers do report on sustainability performance. But what steps are needed for successful reporting in the first place?

1. Focus on Metrics and Accomplishments

One key criticism that has been leveled against many sustainability reports — and, indeed, the criteria presented by the reporting organizations they adhere to — is that they are simply providing their own narrative of supposed successes. Sometimes this is true, but it also depends on how they are reporting. Organizations may report for regulatory reasons, they might provide sustainability reports that don’t meet any sort of external framework, or, in many cases, they may build datasets based on external guidelines (like Global Reporting Initiative or CDP) and then provide to stakeholders that are “certified” — for lack of a better word — by third-party sustainability reporting organizations.

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What’s often lost in all of these pursuits is a focus on metrics and accountable accomplishments. It’s one thing to say you’ve engaged in "X" initiative to reduce carbon emissions, with a lot of marketing gloss. It is quite another thing to state what kind of emissions reduction targets your organization has met and to back up those accomplishments with provable metrics.

While there’s nothing wrong with adding color and context to our achievements, we always have to fall back on hard data, sourcing not only the numbers but also the methodology that went into determining those numbers.

2. Appoint an Executive Owner of Reporting and Report Consistently

Many organizations willy-nilly commit to the “idea” of sustainability reporting without establishing a clear internal champion of the effort involved in that commitment.

Whether we’re aligning reporting with regulatory bodies, reporting frameworks like GRI, or even providing ad hoc reports to stakeholders on our own terms, there’s a lot of legwork and time involved in generating reports.

This cannot be left to one individual in one department, as the effort requires cross-functional participation. Executive-level sponsorship of a companywide endeavor to seriously engage in sustainability reporting will go a long way in streamlining information gathering.

With that, it is important to appoint an owner of the process. If you have a chief sustainability officer, he or she would be the obvious go-to for an internal champion of such an initiative. If not, consider electing someone else that can own the sustainability reporting process. Also, the owner of this process can ensure reporting is consistent, on at least an annual basis. Often organizations that claim to report have documents on their websites that are two years old or more. If you invest in reporting, report on a consistent basis.

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This article was originally published on ThomasNet News Industry Market Trends  and is reprinted with permission from Thomas Industrial Network.  For more stories like this please visit Industry Market Trends


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