Sustainability reporting is a broad term that can look different for each organization but, despite these differences, the same foundation is needed from one organization to the next to make sustainability reporting successful.
Craig Schilling, VP of energy advising at ENGIE Impact discusses the foundational pieces that organizations should prioritize when developing sustainability reporting so that they can access the benefits that disclosure has to offer.
Having a clear picture of what your resource consumption patterns look like is the basis for building accurate sustainability reporting. Effective resource management allows you to monitor and measure the usage and cost of energy, water, and waste in a way that helps to inform sustainability and business strategies. Once you understand your resource use, you can begin to set business goals and KPIs that will inform what your reporting structure will look like. Building reporting without clear visibility into what your resources are doing can prevent clear communication to stakeholders on sustainability initiatives.
When built with a resource-first approach, sustainability reporting can provide benefits to the business from multiple angles. Connecting sustainability success to a positive financial impact is one of the most important benefits of sustainability reporting. The TCFD (Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosure) has even provided recommendations on how to make your financial and sustainability reporting work together so that stakeholders can have centralized data for understanding the financial impact of climate-related programs. Sustainability reporting also helps organizations anticipate and navigate new regulatory requirements. As the demands of the industry continue to evolve, regulatory reporting provides the opportunity for benchmarking, which gives organizations a better picture of what parts of their sustainability program could benefit from additional attention. The list of benefits is quite extensive but other major impacts include better brand reputation, more informed decision making, stronger organizational culture, and an informed proactive positive impact on the environment.
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There can be internal and external challenges when tackling reporting for your organization. While gaining insight into resources at the site level is foundational, it can be challenging to work through the nuances of multiple suppliers or aggregate data that needs to be allocated on a site-by-site basis. Additionally, the ability to house, cleanse, manipulate, verify and visualize accurate data on an ongoing cadence can create internal challenges without the support of a robust digital toolset. Externally, there are many (maybe too many) regulatory agencies, boards, councils, and foundations establishing best practice methodology and disclosure frameworks. Even though they are all created with good intentions, it can make the industry confusing to navigate as organizations start to consider their reporting structure and governance. In light of this, there has been a recent push by the accounting standard agencies and exchange commission to establish an increased presence that enables common methods and practices for apples-to-apples disclosure across organizations.
Sustainability reporting adoption is gaining momentum worldwide as corporate stakeholders demand more transparency. The ability to create stronger processes around sustainability reporting allows for reduced risk across the supply chain and will inform scenario analysis and more efficient decision-making. It is important to remember that getting the big picture starts with understanding resource consumption first. That will allow the organization to stay flexible and adapt to whatever is on the horizon.
Let’s work together to build clear and effective sustainability reporting.