10 Pieces of Advice for Companies Targeted by the EU Reporting Regulation
There is a good reason for Sustainability professionals to cheer-up this week: the European Parlement has voted a new directive on CSR reporting, mandating all European publicly-traded companies with more than 500 employees to report on diverse Sustainability topics, such as environmental and social issues, but also anti-corruption or human rights. This is an extremely positive message sent to businesses to advance corporate transparency in society.
However, if most (if not all) CSR professionals are excited about this news, I bet some of the targeted companies are more than worried about this new obligation. I guess companies that have not been faced with publishing a non-financial report yet must be quite skeptical about the benefits of it – some may even be worried, frightened or reluctant about publicly reporting on their non-financial data. But they should not. Sustainability reporting can add tremendous values in your business operations, from a better reputation and new markets opportunities, to increased efficiency, employees loyalty and access to capital.
If you are one of the companies targeted by the new EU regulation, or if you simply need to publish a Sustainability report for the 1st time, here’s a list of 10 pieces of advice that you should follow to fully benefit from the experience:
- Stop complaining: You didn’t want to publish a non-financial report to start with, so you don’t see the point in doing it right? Think twice. The whole process of doing a non-financial report is not as painful as you imagine. In fact, it may become your best opportunity to improve as a business, as an employer or as a key actor of your community. Stop complaining about being compliant with another new regulation and try to see the opportunity in it.
- Start as soon as possible: Creating a non-financial report is not the type of process one starts a couple of weeks before publication. It’s an on-going process to improve the overall Sustainability performance of your company… and report about your achievements. You should know who your stakeholders and material aspects are for instance, and that alone can take weeks of brainstorming, meetings, research and analysis. Get started soon as tomorrow if you want to do it seriously.
- Gain as much insights as you can: You are lucky. Sustainability and CSR topics are very well-documented and you’ll find plenty of prolific consultants and bloggers on the subject. Register to the best newsletters and blogs, regularly read articles and thought pieces you’ll find on Twitter under #CSRreporting and attend conferences or webinars to increase your knowledge. For instance, here’s the list of great CSR resources published in 2013, which is a good starting point.
- Involve your CEO and employees: You definitely want to have support from your top-management, but you don’t want to forget your employees as well. Employees Engagement is a top issue in CSR as your collaborators are one of your most important groups of stakeholders… and your best embassadors. They can provide you with great insights about your current challenges, but can also be a great source of ideas (and savings) if you know how to convince them about jumping into the game.
- Put the right person in charge: Luckily, you may already have an EHS or Human Resource Manager who’s passionate about Sustainability and would be willing to manage this project. It’s the best option because he/she would already know about your company, its processes, its strenghts but also weaknesses. If you really can’t figure out the right person to take upon this role internally, you can still look for an external candidate among your network or on Linkedin. Remember that the perfect candidate doesn’t exist, but a passion for CSR, excellent organization skills and a deep knowledge of your industry is the minimum to apply to such position.
- Choose your framework carefully: You are free to select a framework among the best ones available out there: GRI G4, ISO 26 000, UN Global Compact, OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises…. To find out which one will fit your organization best, go to each of these frameworks organisations’ websites and take a deep look at their methodologies and guidelines. Find out if they provide sector supplements, or a translation of their guidelines in your language. If you still don’t know which one to follow, simply go for G4, it’s definitely a safe choice.
- Calculate your materiality: Materiality is the big word of GRI G4 but is also a concept you’ll find in other frameworks, especially the IIRC (Integrated Reporting). Calculating your materiality is a methodology to discover what’s important for your business and your stakeholders, meaning all the people and organizations that are positively or negatively impacted by your organization’s activities. Knowing who your stakeholders are and what matters to them and to your triple bottom line is a major step you can’t afford to miss when defining the content you’re going to talk about in your Sustainability report.
- Use effective tools: Data-collection can really become a nightmare if you are using simple spreadsheets, especially if you’re a broad organization with several subsidiaries or facilities. You can check researches published by the main industry analysts like Verdantix or Forrester: they will provide you with independant advice on management software solutions (among a lot of other interesting things) which could really ease your data-collection.
- Go digital: Today, publishing your Sustainability report as a PDF is no longer an option. You need to turn your mandatory reporting obligation into a communication opportunity: publish your final report on the web to increase your audience, better highlight your achievements and improve your reputation. Get your stakeholders something more engaging & interactive than just a piece of paper, provide a space for them to share views and opinion about your performance. In other words, show more transparency. Still not buying it? Here’s a list of 25 quotes that will convince you about online reporting. Call us if you want more info!
- Measure your ROI: Finally, don’t hesitate to identify key indicators to calculate the Return-On-Investment of your Sustainability Report. Have you noticed more applicants to your job openings because they appreciated your corporate culture? Have you strenghtened relationships with your partners or suppliers because they felt more involved in your decision-making? Or have you improved your brand reputation because you finally disclosed non-financial data on specific issues? Trying to evaluate the added value your business gained from your report is a very rewarding task after all this work, don’t overpass it!
Finally, my last advice would be to really enjoy the whole process. Your company’s Sustainability journey will probably be the most exciting one, and you’re lucky to be a part of it!