While being on holiday I had good idea for a new blog category and series. Each week (if possible) I am going to write a review of either a new or interesting sustainability report or website I have come across.
Sustainability reports and the sustainability websites of organisations are getting more and more sophisticated and complex as they are increasingly seen as being a key communication tool for organisations across the globe. They usually include information on their environmental, social and some economic performance.
I will start with the first company next week.
Before starting I wanted to provide everyone with a rough guide to sustainability reporting and what to look for when you either read a sustainability report or when browsing the sustainability section of a company’s website.

What To Look For In A Sustainability Report

  • What is the time span of the reporting period? Annually or bi-annually? Companies that take reporting on sustainability serious usually report on an annual basis
  • What are the topics they report on? Are these topics really important topics or just window dressing?
    Are they providing a lot of stories and case studies? Stories and case studies bring you closer to the people and challenges the organisation faces.
  • Do they have a set of key performance indicators (KPI)? What are they and have the reported on these before? KPIs are either numbers or qualitative indicators that provide comparibility over a period of time for the companies. If a company has defined a set of indicators and report on these over years than this is a good sign that they know what they are doing.
  • Do they use the GRI G3 principles? If yes what is their rating? The GRI is the Global Reporting Initiative and they developed a very sophisticated set of principles as part of a reporting framework every company should report on. Reporting according to the GRI is a must if you want to produce a respected report. Altough it needs to be said that for smaller organisations the GRI is not always useful as it is very extensive. GRI is most useful multi-nationals in my opinion.
  • Do they refer to their website? If not then they are missing the trick of interactivity
  • Do they have a contact person in their report or just an email address? An essential part of stakeholder engagement in my opinion.

What To Look For On Their Corporate Sustainability Website

  • All of the above
  • Do they have a standalone sustainability report or do they only provide the information on this website? Both ways can be successful if you have the stakeholder in mind.
  • Do they provide regular updates of their key performance indicators or any other information? An essential factor for interactivity and communication.
  • Are they trying to engage with you as the stakeholder and viewer of the website or are they purely relaying company information?

These are just some of the questions a good sustainability report and website should answer.

I will starting next week to use these and more questions to see whether the particular report is delivering value to you the reader and stakeholder.
Next weeks report will be the AllianceBoots 2007/08 Corporate Social Responsibility Report if you want to have a sneak preview.

Photo Credit: B_Tal

No Comments

  1. do you have some examples of KPI? I feel like there iscsome debate about which metrics should be watched.

    -Sam

  2. do you have some examples of KPI? I feel like there iscsome debate about which metrics should be watched.

    -Sam

  3. hi fabian, look forward to reading your report reviews. I do this myself but havent gotten around to the discipline of publishing them all yet,. though i did start a new reporting blog : http://www.csr-reporting.blogspot.com

    Anyway, i think the most important thing to look for in a sustainability report is how the company has engaged stakeholders and what they have discovered as material issues, and how they deal with these material isues in their report. Companies who include a full materiality analysis, such as Ford, and Vodafone, are way ahead of the league in my book.

    G3 is just as relevant for small businesss as it provides a structured framework for reporting.

    for second or more reports, i like to see what progress has been made against previous targets and data, rather than just take the reporting period in a vacuum.

    The report is also interesting for what it doesnt say. For thoseof us who know a little bit about the relevant sectors, or the reporting company, knowing what has been omitted is just as important as what has been included.

    Finally, is the report ASSURED ?? This is an important step and reportd without some form of assurance are lacking in a level of credibility.

    Actually, time prevents me from writing more at this point, but as a profressional report reader and critic, i have lots moe to say. Perhaps i will post again. these are the salient things that sprang to mind in respose to your post.

    Finally, I would recommend your reviews to follow a defined format so that they are benckmarkable.

    good luck!

    elaine, social business consultant and csr report writer and certified assurer, israel

  4. hi fabian, look forward to reading your report reviews. I do this myself but havent gotten around to the discipline of publishing them all yet,. though i did start a new reporting blog : http://www.csr-reporting.blogspot.com

    Anyway, i think the most important thing to look for in a sustainability report is how the company has engaged stakeholders and what they have discovered as material issues, and how they deal with these material isues in their report. Companies who include a full materiality analysis, such as Ford, and Vodafone, are way ahead of the league in my book.

    G3 is just as relevant for small businesss as it provides a structured framework for reporting.

    for second or more reports, i like to see what progress has been made against previous targets and data, rather than just take the reporting period in a vacuum.

    The report is also interesting for what it doesnt say. For thoseof us who know a little bit about the relevant sectors, or the reporting company, knowing what has been omitted is just as important as what has been included.

    Finally, is the report ASSURED ?? This is an important step and reportd without some form of assurance are lacking in a level of credibility.

    Actually, time prevents me from writing more at this point, but as a profressional report reader and critic, i have lots moe to say. Perhaps i will post again. these are the salient things that sprang to mind in respose to your post.

    Finally, I would recommend your reviews to follow a defined format so that they are benckmarkable.

    good luck!

    elaine, social business consultant and csr report writer and certified assurer, israel

  5. Hi Fabian

    As someone who has worked with some of the larger corporates on CSR reporting (I come from the IT reporting tools angle) we have found that there is quite a demand from the SME market to start reporting to measure performance improvement and provide transparency to their stakeholders.

    What I would like to know is what are SME's interested in reporting and whether you will be looking at any reports produced by SMEs. These seem to be very different and tend to be much simpler than the corporates. Do you (or anyone) think that the metrics should be the same and how are these reports verified?

    Would be interested in your or anyone's views?

    Thanks

    Charlie

  6. Hi Fabian
    As someone who has worked with some of the larger corporates on CSR reporting (I come from the IT reporting tools angle) we have found that there is quite a demand from the SME market to start reporting to measure performance improvement and provide transparency to their stakeholders.
    What I would like to know is what are SME’s interested in reporting and whether you will be looking at any reports produced by SMEs. These seem to be very different and tend to be much simpler than the corporates. Do you (or anyone) think that the metrics should be the same and how are these reports verified?

    Would be interested in your or anyone’s views?
    Thanks
    Charlie

  7. Fabian,

    This was very helpful. May I ask, though it may be a little off topic, what in your mind are the best independent CSR ratings databases that are open for public examination? The thing is, these metrics in the reporting itself do leave so much room for fudging. Is is the case that ALL of the ratings databases are proprietary? That would seem to be at cross-purposes with the public intent of CSR.

    For a do-it-yourself social investor, how I’m left to investigate CSR options right now is browsing the “components” list of indices like the DJSIs and the mutual funds.

    Please tell me I’ve missed something!

  8. Fabian,

    This was very helpful. May I ask, though it may be a little off topic, what in your mind are the best independent CSR ratings databases that are open for public examination? The thing is, these metrics in the reporting itself do leave so much room for fudging. Is is the case that ALL of the ratings databases are proprietary? That would seem to be at cross-purposes with the public intent of CSR.

    For a do-it-yourself social investor, how I'm left to investigate CSR options right now is browsing the "components" list of indices like the DJSIs and the mutual funds.

    Please tell me I've missed something!

  9. Useful post Fabian. I'm with Charlie – would be interesting to take a look at some SME's and their reporting needs. I suspect that metrics should be flexible enough to fit the scope of a company as and if it grows larger.

  10. Useful post Fabian. I’m with Charlie – would be interesting to take a look at some SME’s and their reporting needs. I suspect that metrics should be flexible enough to fit the scope of a company as and if it grows larger.


  11. Thank you everyone for these great comments.

    @elaine: Great comment. I have bookmarked your site for more information.

    @Charlie: I will have a look and see which SMEs would be interesting to take a closer look at. Do you have any suggestions where to start looking?

    @greenlight: Good questions. I only know http://www.corporateregister.com as a large report repository. But when it comes to rating agencies databases I not an expert at the moment. I will have a closer look in the next few days. I like some of them but there are so many now that I am wondering how the differentiate themselves nowadays.

    @Vanessa: I totally agree. As said. I will take a closer look at SMEs in the weeks as well.


  12. Author

    Thank you everyone for these great comments.

    @elaine: Great comment. I have bookmarked your site for more information.

    @Charlie: I will have a look and see which SMEs would be interesting to take a closer look at. Do you have any suggestions where to start looking?

    @greenlight: Good questions. I only know http://www.corporateregister.com as a large report repository. But when it comes to rating agencies databases I not an expert at the moment. I will have a closer look in the next few days. I like some of them but there are so many now that I am wondering how the differentiate themselves nowadays.

    @Vanessa: I totally agree. As said. I will take a closer look at SMEs in the weeks as well.




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