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Sustainability reporting is gathering momentum – but the reports and the reporting process needn’t become ever more cumbersome
When preparing for corporate sustainability reports (CSRs) and integrated reports, companies have no shortage of material, between internal and external sources, stakeholder and client concerns and data for regulatory agencies. As CSRs have become more sophisticated over the years, so has the need for more material and more specific data.
That has increased the challenge of compiling a comprehensive report that meets all requirements and provides more answers than questions. It can mean hacking through fields of data, at first with machete-like crudeness and then working down to the tweezer level to decide what bits of information are relevant.
Most companies want to submit their CSRs to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), which promotes the use of sustainability reporting as a means for companies and organisations to become more sustainable and contribute to a sustainable global economy. GRI says its mission is “to make sustainability reporting standard practice”.
In fact, 93% of the world’s largest 250 corporations report on their sustainability performance, notes GRI. GRI produces free Sustainability Reporting Guidelines so all companies and organisations can report their economic, environmental, social and
governance performance and impacts.
Some companies produce integrated reports, which analyse the most material activities “to highlight risks and opportunities, focusing on those that are most important to its stakeholders and shareholders,” according to a consulting firm. A CSR provides a broader overview of corporate sustainability efforts and programmes.
And just when companies were getting comfortable with the current GRI system, change came. Companies that wish to submit their reports to the GRI will have to meet new GRI regulations called G4, which are effective for reports filed after 31 December 2015.
The new guidelines encourage businesses to focus on the issues most important to their organisation and the related economic, environmental and social impacts. In addition, there are new reporting levels. Standard disclosures are new or have been updated for ethics and integrity, governance and anticorruption. Greenhouse gas emission guidelines also have been revised. (See Summary of G4 guidelines on page 8 in the Whitepaper briefing.)
The Swedish communications technology company Ericsson is preparing for the new guidelines by holding workshops with relevant stakeholders who have helped the company in the past during its reporting period, says Heather Johnson, director, communications and stakeholder engagement, sustainability and corporate responsibility. “We hope that the G4 guidelines will enable us to deliver an even more strategic report focused on the most relevant issues to our company and our stakeholders,” Johnson says.
PwC in Sweden, which audits and reviews CSRs, says that as part of integrating G4, PwC is advising clients to do a thorough materiality analysis and identify their key issues. “Furthermore, they need to ensure that their key issues are approved or rejected by their stakeholders,” she says. In assessing G4 reports, “we will have more focus on our client’s materiality and their stakeholder engagement, to ensure that they have a good process in place to identify their key issues and activities”.
Most companies have established their data collection processes and teams over time and often build their current reports on previous years’ information. The data selection process is evolving all the time, says Per Brattberg, director of sustainability reporting at Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget (SCA), a Swedish paper products and forestry company. “As data access improves, the requests
for data also increase,” Brattberg explains. “In the end it is important to establish your targets and strategies first, in order to know what is important; data acquisition just has to follow this.”
Since SCA follows the GRI G4 format, the company knows the base set of data, he adds. “[The work] is more to ensure that collected data also has internal relevance, which GRI-G4 data does not always have, to ensure that external and internal reporting fit together.”
SCA begins data collection at the end of November; its sustainability report is published in March. A team of two to five people is involved in sorting data submitted by more than 100 people. “Preparation and continuously upgrading what to collect and how to collect certain data is always developing,” Brattberg says. Selecting data for the report involves analysing global trends and drivers that impact SCA and discussion with outside peers about topics of importance.
In addition, the company performs a materiality assessment to ensure it addresses issues that all stakeholders value, Brattberg adds. That analysis helps the company from its ongoing strategy and includes a review of the previous year’s achievements measured against strategies and targets.
While SCA does not follow the Integrated Reporting Framework form the International Integrated Reporting Council, the company is confident that together with the Annual Report it is an integrated publication, says Brattberg. “The contents are what is considered most important to SCA’s stakeholders, as determined by a materiality analysis.”
The above is an extract from a newly published 9-page management briefing on managing data in CR reporting. To read the full whitepaper visit hereCR Reporting data sustainability reporting GRI IIRC