Businesses globally have a wide range of sustainability frameworks, standards and benchmarks, they can report to - CDP, the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), the UN Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) - and the list goes on.
Each tool varies slightly in purpose, audience and reporting requirements. It is a constant challenge to keep track of what information is required where, and to develop appropriate data gathering processes to support sustainability reporting. With multiple frameworks to consider, and increasing requests for information from stakeholders, reporting fatigue is a real issue.
To avoid sustainability reporting becoming a tick box compliance exercise, companies need to focus on evaluating which reporting tools are suitable for their business and will produce meaningful disclosures for stakeholders.
Below we have shared some tips to help businesses reduce the reporting burden and continue to get the most of sustainability reporting.
1. Know your audience
Sustainability reporting frameworks, standards and benchmarks can be intended for multiple audiences and require different information to be reported. GRI and the SDGs are intended for a global audience, whereas DJSI, CDP and SASB are more investor focused. CDP exclusively focuses on climate change, water and forests, whereas DJSI and GRI consider a wider range of Environmental, Sustainability and Governance (ESG) issues. It is therefore critical that you ensure you know the intended audience of a sustainability framework and align your approach accordingly.
2. Be strategic
No company can use every framework, or participate in every benchmark. Companies should prioritise those that are most relevant for the business and stakeholders. Taking a strategic approach to reporting will produce more focused external communications and help develop streamlined internal data collection processes. Ensuring that you use the sustainability reporting tools that generate the most value for your business helps reduce the reporting burden.
3. Look for overlaps and close the gaps
GRI, CDP and SASB have all recognised the need for coordination between sustainability reporting tools. However, the alignment documents they have produced can confuse matters! We recommend mapping out your own sustainability reporting channels, tools and data points. This information will help you assess data overlaps and identify areas to reduce duplication efforts. The exercise will also highlight potential gaps in your current sustainability programme which you may need to address in the future.
Photo by @pagsa__