However, developing an appropriate and representative report is not always straightforward amid fluctuating stakeholder expectations, trends, and attention spans. As such, many companies choose to follow existing frameworks in order to provide consistent and repeatable metrics, understand their progress, benchmark against peers, and transparently communicate to stakeholders.
Some of the most commonly followed frameworks include:
• Global Reporting Initiative (GRI): More than 12,750 organizations worldwide have published sustainability reports available in GRI’s disclosure database1, making it not only the first, but also the most widely accepted standard for sustainability reporting. The GRI framework involves identifying and reporting on material aspects (economic, social, and environmental) for your company. Ninety-three percent of the world’s largest 250 companies report on sustainability, and 82 percent report to GRI standards.2
• CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project): CDP offers an established platform to report on carbon, forestry, and water impact for your company, with a supply chain module to incorporate supplier results. Encompassing governance, strategy, and results, CDP grades disclosures from A to F. Eighty-seven percent of companies that disclose to CDP Climate Change have identified business opportunities and are taking action to address climate risks, worth $53 billion in savings.3
• Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD): TCFD provides a framework for reporting on climate change-related financial risk in order to provide consistent and complete information to investors and stakeholders. As of June 2018, 286 companies have expressed support for TCFD, representing $7.1 trillion in market capitalization and $86.2 trillion in asset management.4
• United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (UN SDGs): Internationally recognized and agreed upon by nearly 200 countries, the SDGs outline ambitious goals to protect the environment, eliminate poverty and inequality, and promote peace and prosperity across the globe. Today, over 3,800 voluntary commitments to the SDGs are listed on the UN’s online partnership platform.5
• Investors: Financiers are actively seeking to invest in companies that plan for the future – including environmental and social sustainability.
• Reputation: More and more, customers and consumers expect both transparency and sustainable practices from the businesses they purchase from.
• Benchmarking: Measuring and reporting on progress helps you stay competitive and understand industry trends.
• Risk Management: Environmental and social issues present material financial risks – actively managing and reporting on these topics helps ensure accountability for future growth.
• Strategy: Reporting on your sustainability initiatives brings together internal and external stakeholders to align sustainability goals with your business strategy.
• Opportunities: Reporting allows you to identify ways to grow your business or reduce cost through sustainability initiatives and stakeholder engagement.
How Can You Get Started?
There are a few steps your company can take to publish a credible sustainability report:
1. Create a Baseline
• Determine the reporting structure that aligns with your organizational goals
• Conduct a materiality assessment and stakeholder engagement to identify material reporting areas
• Create a roadmap for future reporting needs and identify gaps in current initiatives and programs
2. Improve for Growth
• Define metrics, collect data, and develop your report
• Design a custom report to meet your company’s unique needs and priorities
• Identify ways to improve your report to guide strategy and action
• Plan for continuous improvement and enhanced initiatives and goal-setting
3. Evaluate Success
• Benchmark against peers and industry leaders to identify current gaps
• Identify improvement areas and opportunities to exceed stakeholder expectations
• Validate your report to GRI or CDP requirements
• Verify data with third-party assurance.