Make A Fuss About Sustainability Reporting

This article is written in preparation for ISOS Group’s GRI Standards Training

Countries across the globe are in different stages of implementing sustainability. Many are still trying to understand it, several are setting new Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals, and fewer still have definitive strategic projects which they are implementing. For those in this later stage of business sustainability, reporting has become a major part of their implementation process.

The fluidity of sustainability definitions, as well as its typical long-term outlook, makes it more than necessary to articulate your goals as it relates to your organization, document your progress, and refine your approach…time and time again. Developing a sustainability report is a good way to keep track of all these.

What is it?

GRI defines a sustainability report simply as a “report published by a company or organization about the economic, environmental and social impacts caused by its everyday activities”. It typically communicates to both internal and external stakeholders what the organization values, how it is governed, what environmental and social issues affect it the most (economic issues are represented in the traditional annual reports), what it is doing about these issues, and where it plans to go (keeping in mind the organization’s overall strategy).

It’s common knowledge that allocating the resources to develop such a report isn’t cheap. But more and more companies are still bothering to do so - Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the foremost independent sustainability reporting standard, currently has more than 25,000 GRI reports from more than 10,000 organizations across the globe!

So why all the fuss?

There are several reasons why so many companies have taken up sustainability reporting. For example:

  1. Articulating your issues, goals and progress on achieving these goals, presents you with a clear picture and roadmap, which inevitably makes implementing sustainability, and in fact anything, easier.
  2. Preparing a sustainability report can be an opportunity to engage with your stakeholders – investors, customers, host communities, etc., and see how they view your organization, and what issues are material to them.
  3. Trust is also a significant benefit of developing sustainability reports. Studies have shown that people trust organizations (particularly corporations) only slightly more than they trust governments…and they don’t trust governments. Airing your laundry, both dirty and clean, in your reports shows that you are willing to open up and that transparency and honesty aren’t just words on your website, but are important to you.
  4. With growing awareness of sustainability amongst the public, and growing distrust of companies in general, it’s important for your organization to have employees who are proud to work with you, and can represent you well anywhere. Most companies are nothing without their employees, so attracting and retaining talent is important. Being seen as a company that cares about all economic, environmental and social issues affecting you is one of the sure ways to gain talent.
  5. Last but not least has to do with trust – the improved company image and reputation you gain by truly caring about your business impacts, in all its forms; dedicating resources to optimize your positive impacts and minimize your negative ones; and exhibiting honesty when you report your strategy, goals and progress in a transparent manner. All these improve or skyrocket your reputation in the minds of the public in general.

Reporting isn’t just a trend

GRI recently transitioned from being guidelines to being standards. This shows that even as sustainability reporting is currently voluntary, there will come a time in the not too distant future when it’s not. Countries like China already make it mandatory for state-owned businesses to report on ESG issues. On the other hand, countries like Nigeria and much of Sub-Saharan Africa may be slower to the sustainability discourse, but growing pressure from globalized stakeholders is slowly but surely bringing business sustainability to the forefront.

This is why it’s important for sustainability professionals, both seasoned and aspiring, to arm themselves with the knowledge to hit the ground running. So trainings such as the upcoming GRI Standards Training by ISOS Group (hosted by PWC Nigeria) are important. With this training, you can learn how to correctly report on your sustainability strategies and projects using the globally recognized GRI standard. This is key in any serious business sustainability implementation process.

Course details

ISOS Group, hosted by PWC, will be facilitating the training from the 3rd to 5th of April 2017 in Lagos, Nigeria. Two standards will be covered - GRI and CDP (Climate Disclosure Project), with certifications upon completion. 

Find out more about the training here, and sign up. See you there!