We're continuing our journey through 13 different services offered by sustainability consultants, and today we're focusing on the #4 most popular type of offering:
4. Sustainability Reporting (52.5%)
Communicating sustainability accomplishments, downfalls and future goals.
(Note: The topic of sustainability reporting is closely aligned with more general marketing and communication services, but we've chosen to pull it out into a separate category because of the unique aspects that differentiate sustainability reporting...read on for details.)
Investors, regulatory activity, and the desire for transparency are all reasons why companies develop what are commonly called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or Sustainability Reports. There are many firms that offer the actual research and drafting of a report and then there are others who host classes on how to produce a report internally. This could include an annual sustainability report, specified sustainability report, any CSR report, or associated research.
The number of companies that produce these non-financial reports continues to grow. According to the State of Green Business Report 2011, 46% of companies on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index published a non-financial report last year, a 17% increase from 2009. Many companies are finding that they can use the reports as a management tool, to guard against risk, discover inefficiencies in business processes and simply improve overall performance.
Elaine Cohen, founding partner of Beyond Business Ltd, believes there are three criteria all sustainability reports must meet:
- Be more transparent
- Closely align with GRI framework
- Be more credible or externally verified
Walmart is renowned for developing the supplier sustainability scorecard, but other companies are taking that one step further. According to Steve Lippman, Microsoft’s Director of Environmental Sustainability, beginning in 2013 Microsoft will launch a pilot project, asking a dozen of its suppliers to file GRI-compliant reports. It is no secret that trends point to a strong reporting direction and there are a number of consultants that can help small, medium and large businesses develop these reports.
Common Jargon and Terminology: GRI reporting, Green Research, Environmental, Health and Safety reporting, Social Reporting, Environmental Reporting, etc.
Where You’ve Seen It: Strategic Sustainability Consulting develops their own annual sustainability report, in addition to helping clients publish their own annual sustainability reports. BrownFlynn hosted the world’s largest GRI training event. Two Tomorrow’s has a class on sustainability reporting. CorporateRegister.com allows peers to vote on the best CSR reports.
See the other types of sustainability consulting we've already covered:
Check out our past blogs to follow the “State of the Sustainability Consulting Industry” series:
- What Sustainability Consulting Is (and Isn’t),
- Types of Sustainability Consulting Organizations,
- By the Numbers: U.S. Sustainability Consulting Market,
- and State of the Sustainability Consulting Industry to learn more about the background for these findings
If you are a new or aspiring sustainability consultant and would like to take your practice to the next level, check out the 2013 Consultant Cohort: a 6-month intensive program hosted by the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) and led by SSC President Jennifer Woofter.