VIEWS: The Case for Sustainability Reporting

Dispatched from the SSC Team

Sustainability reporting isn't just about appeasing critics or showing off your company's new recycling program. Creating a detailed report can keep an organization's daily operations in check. Sue Cischke, Group Vice President of Sustainability, Environment & Safety Engineering at Ford Motor Company, recently blogged about the importance of sustainability reporting. It’s true that many companies have begun the practice in an effort to win over consumers who increasingly call for corporate transparency. However, Ms. Cischke highlights another crucial benefit derived from sustainability reporting: benchmarking. Sustainability reporting allows an organization to track its progress from year to year, often with increasing detail as the data and reporting tools become more accurate.

The increasing usage of sustainability reporting was further chronicled in a white paper created by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Here are some of the most significant findings unveiled within the document:

  • While fewer than 500 companies created sustainability reports in 1999, nearly 3,500 did so in 2008.
  • Approximately 80% of the world’s largest 250 organizations published sustainability reports in 2008.
  • Organizations cite customers, investors, regulations, employees and industry peer pressure as key drivers in motivating the creation of sustainability reports.

Particularly within an economy that has been burned by bad behavior, consumer trust is key to business survival. When creating a sustainability report, it’s wise to showcase your progress but be realistic and discuss the ways in which you hope to improve your efforts. Coca-Cola Enterprises provides a solid example of flaunting what it’s got while being open about the long road ahead. The beverage behemoth created a comprehensive report detailing the year’s sustainable successes and outlining a multitude of lofty goals for the future. Perhaps more impressive, though, is the company’s partnership with Georgetown University’s MBA program. Coca-Cola Enterprises allowed a group of students to analyze its most recent sustainability report and publish the uncensored critique. Being as transparent as possible tends to alleviate the corporate mistrust harbored by consumers in a recession. No organization is perfect and those that claim to be will surely beckon skeptics. 

With ever increasing regulatory pressures, it seems a sure thing that sustainability reporting will become mandatory in the future. As with anything else in business, it’s better to tackle an obstacle before it tackles you. So, why not begin sustainability reporting today? If you think that your organization should begin recording its sustainability progress and plans but don’t know where to begin, look no further. SSC is here to help! Contact us for more information about how to get started.