The Growing Importance of Sustainability Reporting

In May of 2013, the United Nations issued a report titled “A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economics through Sustainable Development,” encouraging all companies worldwide to produce a Corporate Sustainability Report (CSR).

In today’s marketplace where a variety of stakeholders are calling for greater sustainability accountability, more and more companies are embracing the CSR as a transparent way to show their commitment and progress in reaching their eco-efficiency goals.

The U.N. publication states that today only 25% of large companies have taken the initiative to report their sustainability practices to stakeholders, and pushes for all companies to embrace sustainability reporting by 2030 as a way to hold firms accountable for “adhering to industry standards, worker safety issues and taking leadership on sustainable consumption, production, and adoption of green technologies.”

Companies that take the lead in producing CSRs before they are required to have the added benefit of strengthening their brand. Creating a CSR voluntarily shows brand leadership, responsibility, and accountability — strong qualities that naturally draw customers to a brand. The Energy + Sustainability team at Eric Mower + Associates has already helped some companies get a head start on sustainability reporting through an annual CSR using a variety of approaches.

One client reports on five key metrics they use to reduce their overall carbon footprint: electricity usage, carbon dioxide emissions, waste, water, and occupational accidents. Their sustainability commitment focuses on processes with minimal impact across product lines and business activities, products with environmental benefits for customers, and risk management to address regulations, product safety, and hazardous materials. Reporting metrics and showing accountability in a transparent way is the most common purpose of a CSR.

Another EMA client’s CSR identifies 10 to 15 sustainability goals across three core focus areas. These range from the environmental impact of their products to local sustainability initiatives that positively impact the communities where its employees live. Each year, the company elects 8 to 10 employees to their Sustainability Council, who work together to improve safety in the workplace and implement internal eco-friendly efficiency initiatives that meet all standards demanded by various country regulations.

This approach shows the increasing role that employees are playing in supporting, and even driving, their companies’ sustainability efforts. In order for a company to fully embrace sustainability initiatives, its employees must be on board. Companies can achieve this through training, award and recognition programs, and encouraging individual employees to create personal sustainability plans.

Developing a CSR is no easy process. After all, it is meant to show accountability to a variety of stakeholders, including customers, employees, investors, shareholders, policymakers, and suppliers.

By providing these stakeholders with meaningful facts and case studies in CSRs that show true progress toward sustainability initiatives, companies can take advantage of a unique opportunity to showcase their eco-efficiency leadership now and buy some goodwill — because by 2030, the CSR will be commonplace and expected from all major companies worldwide.