Here are some (fairly) recent publications relating to trends in sustainability reporting for all you reporting geeks out there.
John Elkington on Sustainability Reporting on Environmentalleader.com
John Elkington, in this brief video, says the biggest trend currently in sustainability reporting is moving from a period of Push in reporting to a period of Pull in reporting where increasingly it is the users who draw on companies to understand performance expectations and targets. The Pull Era is goiung to be a real challenge for companies and also a huge opportunity. In the past, John says, companies used to print a report once a year. Then, they used websites to make things more interactive. Now we are seeing the emergence of a 24/7 environment where companies can be challenged from all sorts of angles including from very major customers who have sustainable strategies and asking to know what their suppliers are doing . Watch out for the new report called The Transparent Economy about to be launched at the GRI Conference in Amsterdam this week.
This interesting report is based on a survey of 43 companies in Belgium who reported in June 2009 and is interesting because it covers many companies who we do not often hear about in the mainstream talk on CSR reporting. Key findings include While the majority of organisations publish a section on stakeholders and define their approach to stakeholder engagement, there are still too few that enter into a meaningful dialogue with stakeholders to define the materiality of their report and ask for specific feedback. Similarly, there is no systematic and comprehensive approach to key performance indicators (KPIs) and organisational aspects (how is CSR internally implemented? Who has the final responsibility for CSR?) are often forgotten. Finally, there are still too few organisations that make good use of new media, in particular their website. Most organisations simply upload their report as a PDF and miss the opportunity to provide more attractive and timely information.
EcoStrategy's “Trends in Sustainability Reporting: A Close-Up Look at Bay Area Companies,” April 2010. This study analyzes how top companies in the San Francisco Bay area report on their sustainability efforts, and rates their performance based on 14 specific attributes including: materiality, stakeholder relevance, target setting / tracking, and completeness. Whilst it did not focus on the issue of sustainability reports alone, the presence of a sustainability report was obviously a key factor in how companies scored. However, of the top 200 Companies in the Bay area, 75% do not produce a sustainability report, though 59% of the large companies, with over $1 billion in revenues, do report. Other important disclosures include the Carbon Disclosure Project which is now a leading source for information regarding environmental performance. You can read Kathleen Gilligan and KJ Janowski's summary of how to produce a top-notch report on Greenbiz.com . One of the interesting points made in the report is the first reason cited for Why companies report: Respond to Increasing Volume of Queries – Many companies have seen an increase in requests for environmental performance information from customers and from socially responsible investors. HP, for example, has seen a steady increase in the percentage of customer Requests for Proposal (RFPs) that ask for sustainability information. For them, reporting is now seen as a market access requirement. This certainly matches my experience with small and large companies alike.
I note that some of the best large-company reporters, not surprisingly, achieved the highest ranking - HP, Cisco and Intel. These three have all issued reports for 2009. Autodesk and National Semiconductor scored best in the smaller Companies with revenues of below $2 billion. Autodesk produced a first report in 2007 whilst National Semi don't report. Yet. Haha.
I have read this excellent report in detail and recommend you also take a look. For a copy of the full report, the authors, Karen Janowski and Kathleen Gilligan, will be happy to send you a copy if you email them via their website.
This interesting presentation focuses on the growing interest of stakeholders in demanding sustainability disclosures, and not surprisingly maintains that companies are increasingly assessed against GRI disclusires, citing NASDAQ and Bloomberg as key players in this space. The presentation also refers to Integrated Reporting, which i am not (yet) a big fan of, and accounts for only 5% of reports issued, but nonetheless is a point in any conversation about reporting trends. See my editorial on CSRWire.com for more on this.
I covered this in a recent post but it is worth including here as well as it is probably the most authoratitive picture of what is happenning in Sustainability reporting around. I wont repeat all the details, though the fact that close to 20% of all reports issued are first-time reports show that reporting is still contiuing to advance.
And the winning trend is ................hah! You will have to wait for the Reporting Blog's summary of reporting trends to be issued after a significant inspirational helping of Chunky Monkey.
elaine cohen is co-founder and co-CEO of Beyond Business, a leading social and environmental consulting and reporting firm. Visit our website at www.b-yond.biz/en