Thoughts on Sustainability Reporting Standards

Thoroughly enjoyed the Smarter Sustainability Reporting conference earlier this week in London. Despite interesting contributions from The International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), an update on the new G4 reporting standard from the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and a presentation from the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD), by far the people who stole the show were investors, Aviva and researchers Bloomberg!

As the sustainability industry vies for positioning on this method and that, consistency of reporting is seemingly not helped by a myriad of different standards, although the IIRC and the GRI did their best to convince the audience that they are working together.  Then, along come a couple of regular business guys who tell us:

  1. Environmental, social and governance issues are important (and becoming more important daily) to investor decisions.
  2. Clarity of information and ease of access are very important, therefore DO provide some context in your reports, as this is important is assessing  whether what you are reporting is material to your company, but DON’T hide important data in a mass of narrative.
  3. Be straightforward. Report in absolutes, normalized figures can feel like fudging.
  4. Where you may have missed targets, clearly show how they are being addressed.
  5. If your figures are independently verified, ensure the scope is clear.

Ok, its maybe not as simple as it can sound, but do we really need such a plethora of benchmarking approaches to get to the clarity everyone needs?