By Juliet Russell, G&A Institute GRI Data Reports Analyst
At the final session on the first day of the recent Commit! Forum’s conference in New York City, attendees broke out into “Issue Tables,” each focusing on different topics — ranging from Human Trafficking to 3rd Party [report] Assurance to STEM Education.
I joined the Next Generation Sustainability Reporting Issue table, where I sat among twelve experts, including the Vice President of Corporate Sustainability at MGM Resorts, the CEO of AdaptReady and the Global Head of Strategy at Thomson Reuters. We shared knowledge and discussed ideas about the future of Sustainability reporting.
Highlights of our discussion: First, the growing importance of sustainability reports was discussed, including (but not limited to) their importance as an information base for investors, helping to shape investment decisions. Many investors are beginning to make decisions based on information disclosed publicly in corporate sustainability reports and are increasingly looking out for ESG (Environmental / Social / Governance) data.
We were encouraged to discuss recent advancements in Sustainability Reporting and the direction in which we expect it to head in.
Regarding frameworks, we expected more companies to be aligning with the GRI G4 report framework and also discussed the possible influence of the new modular GRI reporting standards, beginning this November, 2016.
SASB (Sustainability Accounting Standards Board) was a popular discussion within the group, as many felt this would become increasingly important in Sustainability reporting.
The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also received a great deal of attention – being new goals (devised in 2014) for companies to align with and being more challenging than the UN Global Compact. Many of us felt that Sustainability Reporting will be increasingly referring to, and based around, the UN SDGs.
Considering the content of the report, the group expected to see more companies committing to Science Based Targets. These include ambitious greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs) reduction targets tailored individually for each company committed to help keep global warming below the COP21-agreed 2 degrees Celsius. This includes communication about ‘best practices’ and scoring each of their main suppliers.
Many of us believed that stating that the materiality of the report content is foundational for these reports and so expected to see more of these types of references. We also discussed that streamlining Sustainability information provided by a company, e.g. integrating Sustainability Reports into the Annual Reports; that should help to decrease audit fatigue and increases investment in the company and employees’ investment into their work.
Our table participants concluded that the future of sustainability reporting is likely to reflect the combination of influence of GRI, SASB and the SDGs. The final task was to come up with a “tweet” to convey the outcome of our discussion, we decided: “Future of sustainability reporting is a GRI+SASB+SDG sandwich. Yummy. #ReportingSandwich.”
Overall, I found this CR Commit! conference session to be very interesting and insightful. It was a really fun and interactive session, encouraging people from across industries with different experiences to share their opinions and ideas. I think every person around the table gained some knowledge and possibly also ideas for their own company with how to tackle their next, or first published, Sustainability Report.