It’s reporting season again, and many of you are already in the midst of gathering information to prepare your annual sustainability reports and disclosures. It’s a great time to take a step back and consider the bigger picture about why you report, and then take a look at the process to see if you’re doing it as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Why respond to public disclosure requests?
- Transparency is important for collaboration and for reputation. We live in an age of hyper transparency, and stakeholders are increasingly seeking information about the companies they invest in, the products and services that they buy, and the suppliers they hire. It goes without saying that it’s critical to stay proactive with information sharing and control YOUR story to the extent possible
- You have a great story to tell. Public disclosure highlights your sustainability programs, stakeholder engagements, and progress to goals.
- Regular reporting keeps everyone in check. Reporting can also be a motivational driver to keep up with your organization’s initiatives and to track progress towards goals and targets. Are you focused on the most material and appropriate initiatives? Are there gaps?
- Investors are using this information. The number of investors seeking CSR metrics from companies is increasing, as are stock prices for companies with more developed sustainability programs.
Time Marches On
We know that sustainability professionals wear a lot of hats, and with so many checkboxes on your To Do list today, a June 30 CDP deadline may seem far away. The fact is, time catches up fast and you don’t want to be caught unprepared--it’s never too early to start preparing for reporting.
To kick things off this year, here is a cheat sheet to help make the process less overwhelming.
The four W’s of your reporting process
- WHY are we reporting? Is it simply a response to an investor request, or is it a mandate by your Board of Directors? Whatever the reason, it helps to understand the business value behind your sustainability reporting efforts. Make a list of the benefits of your reporting venture – top of the list should be “telling your story on your terms.” Use this list to get buy-in from your internal stakeholders. Don’t make it an exercise to just check off boxes when you can use this process to strengthen your strategy and internal awareness of your initiatives.
- WHAT do we need to report? Create an outline of all of the aspects of your report, and know what has changed from year to year. Conduct an assessment to better understand what is important or material to report based on your business/stakeholders, and take the time to understand the scope so that you do not go down the rabbit hole trying to find information that might not add value or be relevant to your stakeholders. Requestors like CDP will typically post documents that identify changes in frameworks from year to year to take the guess work out of scope determination.
- WHEN are reports due? The final deadline should not be your sole focus – think about the milestones necessary to get there (final data due date, third party accreditation deadlines, internal deadlines for annual reporting, how long does legal need to vet the response, etc.) Think about the potential roadblocks that might get in the way and plan accordingly—in our experience, legal review and data hang-ups tend to be two key roadblocks that can pop up at the last minute.
- WHO is accountable? Sustainability reporting is a cross-functional process, which means there are a lot of moving parts. It’s important to get on each team’s agenda quickly and set accountabilities at the very beginning. Proper sign-off might require a more aggressive timeline.
It’s go time!
Find yourself on the handy stress chart below, and reach out for help if you need it—our sustainability reporting experts are here to offer whatever support you need.