EY - Sustainability reporting - the time is now

Sustainability reporting — the time is now

Reporting becomes a mainstream business practice

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Sustainability reporting appears to be reaching a “tipping point,” as it moves beyond the realm of the innovators and early adopters and into the mainstream.

Our report is an assessment of the current status of sustainability reporting, featuring some of the insights and experiences of participants at the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Global Conference on Sustainability and Reporting. A survey and live polling at the conference enabled EY and GRI to gather opinions on the changing nature of sustainability as it moves rapidly into the boardroom and the investment decision-making process — and into the minds of consumers.

Failure to engage with the reporting process could have a negative impact on performance, reputation, and even the ability to raise capital.

There are two key aspects of sustainability in business: reporting and strategy.

Reporting demands measurement of the different elements that are critical to effective sustainable business operations. Strategy helps to build on sustainability reporting as a tool to understand the internal and external impact on the business, using the data to help address the challenges of 21st-century business and create a competitive edge in a world increasingly shaped by the effects of resource scarcity and climate change.

A number of trends emerged at the GRI Conference, and the polling results back up the premise that sustainability reporting is reaching a tipping point:

It is clear the need for transparency and the disclosure of sustainability information is high on the agenda, not just for business, but for a wide range of stakeholders including investors, governments and civil society. Nonetheless there is still a long way to go.

There is increasing demand for sustainability reports to be not only credible, reliable and robust, but increasingly also relevant and strategic, which means they must contain the right information for the right people. Publishing such information in a sustainability report is only the start of a journey, and acting on its findings may require changes throughout the organization.

The survey highlights the importance of strong leadership, particularly from the business community and the leaders of individual organizations. Leadership is needed to support the sustainability strategy, embed it into the business and show that it can provide value to both the organization and wider society.