Sustainability Reporting: Convergence & Expansion

Jeremy Mohr

As fall begins to set in around the nation, corporate sustainability teams have the opportunity to reflect before next year’s reporting season gets underway. Yesterday, Newsweek released
their fourth annual Green Rankings on the tail of last month’s Carbon Disclosure Project’s S&P 500 report. Despite little national action and near silence on climate change during our presidential campaign―from both sides of the aisle―these reports contend businesses are moving the
ball forward.

But, let’s not get confused as to why all of this matters. Reporting for the sake of reporting won’t get us to where we need to go, and as Bill McKibben explains, the math to get there can be daunting. Therefore, it makes sense to ensure reporting is straightforward and standardized while continuing to give customers, investors and other key stakeholders the information they need. In other words, we need convergence in reporting requirement nuances so resource-thin sustainability departments aren’t spending their precious time focusing on the report’s words as opposed to making sure those words mean something.

Furthermore, we need expansion in reporting minimum expectations to broaden and deepen the information conveyed. For example, are the company’s carbon accounting practices sound? Have they considered their value chain? Are they setting meaningful targets and working towards them? Are they serious about the investments decisions they face in a transition to a low carbon economy? To be sure, expanding reporting to include much more than the minimum expectations is intended to get to the root question―are we doing our best to make Mr. McKibben’s “math” less terrifying?

The good news is these needs aren’t lost on the big three―Newsweek, CDP, and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Since 2010, CDP and GRI have been working to link up their questionnaires “to lead to more and better quality reporting.” And, with the long awaited supply chain guidance released last year, the industry has also converged on how to report more holistically on enterprises’ entire impact.

Because of this maturing, some companies continue to expand their efforts, and they are doing a better job of telling their story. For example, GRI is seeing record feedback on their evolving guidelines and CDP reports disclosure and performance scores among the S&P 500 are up 13% and 44% in 2012, respectively. For more evidence on the importance of sustainability reporting, look no further than this year’s largest movers in the Newsweek Rankings―Target and Apple. While Target, moving up 151 spots, is setting goals and actively working towards those public statements, Apple, who lost 68 spots, continues to not disclose to organizations like CDP.

So, while national efforts are moving too slow even though some bipartisan carbon legislation quietly moves through congress, leading companies’ sustainability reporting and, more importantly, their actions are moving ahead to address climate change.

Learn about Ecova’s Sustainability and Carbon Management Solutions.

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