Thursday, 31 December 2009

Companies in developing countries among leaders in climate change reporting

As world leaders and their team of negotiators in Copenhagen worked towards a last-minute deal to agree the best way to reduce carbon emissions, it became clear that at least one influential group is understanding the impact of business activity and climate change.

A joint news release by GRI and ACCA, issued on December 10 - the day that we launched our report “High Impact Sectors: the Challenge of Reporting on Climate Change” at Copenhagen - has received significant media coverage around the world.

That may be not least because our four-part report shows how companies in developing countries are among leaders in climate change reporting. While less than half of companies studied at a global level, disclosed specific climate change-related information using GRI indicators in their company’s sustainability reports, the report does reveal that companies from Brazil, China, India and South Africa are shown to be particularly strong in reporting on climate change policies, strategies, governance and risks. They also lead the way in having in place emissions targets, measurement procedures, and mitigation and adaptation plans.

If the media and the developing economies understand the importance of reporting emissions in an effective way, it surely cannot be too much of a leap for leaders of the developed world to ‘get it’.

The report can be downloaded from this link:

Steve Priddy, Director of Technical Policy and Research, ACCA.

Monday, 14 December 2009

A love-hate relationship

I have a love-hate relationship with sustainability reports.

I am a process guy, and I appreciate the rigor behind reporting:

1. Identify critical issues by engaging external people;
2. Set up a vision of your industry in a just and sustainable world;
3. Build processes that help you deliver your strategy;
4. Set ambitious, credible targets;
5. Monitor progress;

… et voilĂ , overtime your sustainability performance should improve, to the benefit of your bottom line.

Yet there are times when reporting drives me up the wall:
• A sustainability strategy that exists only in the head of sustainability specialists,
• Robust articulation of incremental innovation strategy, when the whole industry needs a re-think,
• Trivial metrics that reflect data availability rather than critical information.

I am all too aware that my theoretical approach does not always pan out.

I also have a hard time with the abundance of rankings and popularity votes, serving a small community of reporting experts. That’s why I am involved in the second edition of the Reader’s Choice Award. We start with basic reporting questions (perception of reporting, use of report, credibility) and ask readers for examples that best illustrate what they value (the infamous popularity vote).

Not only do we check these results with reporters’ initial goals, three of us also spend a lot of time dissecting the results. This extra layer of analysis provided by Futerra, KPMG and SustainAbility will result in robust commentaries on the state of reporting, for better or for worse.

So spread the word! The more participants the better.

JP Renaut,
Program Manager,

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Readers versus Reporters

This year will see the return of the Global Reporting Initiative’s Readers' Choice Awards and Readers' survey, but with a twist. This time, it’s not just the readers’ opinions we want. For the first time, companies that produce sustainability reports will also be able to take part in the survey. This will provide a unique insight, showing both sides of the story.

Data from the GRI’s reports list showed that 1,061 GRI reports were published in 2008, a record-breaking 50% growth compared to 2007. Last year’s results from the GRI’s reader’s survey also showed that 90% of readers’ views towards a company had been influenced by reading its sustainability report. Both these statistics are significant. The first shows that even in the current economic climate, companies are still dedicating time and money to their reporting. The second indicates that they have an impact on their readers. So, has the business case for sustainability reporting finally emerged? If the answer is yes, this is extremely positive, but also reiterates the importance for companies to get their reporting right. Last year’s reader’s survey provided a unique insight into what readers want to see in sustainability reporting. Yet, without also hearing from the companies that produce these reports, it is difficult for us to measure the effectiveness of their reporting. What we still don’t know is whether companies are actually meeting their own objectives and reaching their target audiences.

This is what Futerra is really interested in. Being able to see both sides of the story will help us understand how well companies reporting and their readers’ expectations are aligned. If the results show they are not aligned, then companies will need to change the way they report. It will be a unique experience in demonstrating how effective sustainability reporting really is.

If so, this will be a key moment in redefining sustainability reporting for the future.
The journey will begin on Thursday 19th November, when the survey opens to reporters at

We look forward to seeing the results.

Helen Spoor, Consultant, Futerra Sustainability Communications Ltd.