What is corporate sustainability reporting and why you need it

Looking through the lens of a pair of glasses to see a clear image of beautiful green trees

What is corporate sustainability reporting and why you need it

It’s often true that ‘what gets measured, gets done’, so now is the perfect time to introduce corporate sustainability reporting into your business

Looking through the lens of a pair of glasses to see a clear image of beautiful green trees
UNSPLASH, BUD HELISSON

‘Transparency’ is one of the words we hear a lot when it comes to business – especially in how brands communicate to their customers. And in a world where ‘greenwashing’ is becoming increasingly prevalent and consumers are more sceptical than ever, it makes sense. 

We build trust with our employees and customers alike when we are open and honest about our business practices. When our walk backs up our talk. 

That’s where corporate sustainability reporting can play a role. 

What is corporate sustainability reporting? 

At its simplest, corporate sustainability reporting is a measurement framework that your company can use to report on how its business practices impact society and the natural world. They are normally produced annually and distributed widely to demonstrate that the business has nothing to hide. 

Once you’ve run a sustainability audit and identified the areas of the business that you want to improve, you’ll want to clarify the performance metrics you’ll use to measure success. 

In its first iteration, your sustainability report will be establishing a baseline against which you’ll compare the next year’s progress. And once you have the metrics nailed down, you’ll be able to set targets for improvement year on year. 

This reporting is important for a number of different stakeholders and the decisions they make every day, including: 

  • investors selecting the companies to invest in 
  • the C-Suite navigating risks and opportunities  
  • consumers making decisions on what products to buy 

What sustainability reporting frameworks are available?

Green leaf
UNSPLASH, MARKUS SPISKE

Here are four of the most widely used sustainability measurement frameworks out there. 

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is one of the oldest measuring frameworks and is the official reporting standard of the UN Global Compact. Their global standards ‘create a common language for organisations – large or small, private or public – to report on their sustainability impacts in a consistent and credible way’. The GRI focuses on three key areas – environmental impact, social impact and internal governance. 

The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) is used by both businesses and investors to understand the financial impacts of sustainability. The SASB standards ‘identify the ESG and sustainability topics that directly impact their long-term value creation’ and provide a common reference point for investors to understand the risks and opportunities. 

The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) seeks to create a consistent and coherent way for companies to disclose climate-related financial risks to investors, lenders, insurers and other stakeholders. 

CDP is ‘the world’s largest, most comprehensive dataset on environmental action, empowering investors, companies, cities, and national and regional governments to make the right choices today to build a thriving economy that works for people and planet in the long term’.

It can be daunting to pull back the curtain and reveal what’s happening within your business, especially if you know there’s still work that needs to be done.

It’s important to remember that corporate sustainability reporting shouldn’t be seen as a stick to beat yourself with. We’re all on a journey to better. The important thing is to be honest about where you are and what more you have to do. 

And once you have the right reporting framework in place, it will be easier to see what you need to focus on to improve. And you can take all your stakeholders along the journey with you.