My Summary of the Smarter Sustainability Reporting Conference
Yesterday, I attended the Smarter Sustainability Reporting Conference in London, presented as “a must attend event for anyone looking to improve upon the quality and communication of their sustainability report.” Besides impressive networking opportunities, the event was extremely well organized (congrats to the Sustainable Business team) and the agenda offered a deep review of the trends Sustainability reporting is facing today…and will face tomorrow. Below is a personal summary of the notes I took during the conference. It is not aimed to be exhaustive but reflects what I think were the most interesting points highlighted. Feel free to add yours if you were there, or to submit your questions!
Reporting Standards & Frameworks
In the morning, the first panelists presented the current trends, standards and frameworks of Sustainability Reporting.
• Ernst Ligteringen, CEO of the GRI, explained that reports were unbalanced as they most of the time only focus on good actions implemented by corporations, instead of presenting a transparent picture of companies’ corporate responsibility. But we’re reaching a tipping point: reporting is going out of its niche and becoming mainstream. In 2013, the GRI will publish its G4 guidelines, which will enhance on user friendliness, technical quality, harmonization…and more! But that’s all we’ll know for today.
• Andrew Raingold, Executive Director of Aldersgate Group, and Paul Druckman, CEO of the International Integrated Reporting Council, both agreed on the current global push toward integrated reporting: the “time has come” Paul said, adding that we’re moving from disconnected paper report to Integrated and technology enabled report, which will create more transparency in products and corporations. Printed reports will not disappear, but be complemented by different communication channels that will fit different users.
Stakeholders Engagement & Communication
Two excellent business cases were presented in the afternoon: Stakeholders Engagement for the Royal Bank of Scotland and Local Reporting for Arcellor Mital.
Duncan Young, from the RBS, explained how they moved from an annual manual to a digital communication to better dialogue with their stakeholders: online reporting, social media, segmentation of reporting to fit different groups of stakeholders, were all solutions they chose to implement to discuss with their customers, investors or suppliers. For instance, on their webpage presenting their 2011 Sustainability Report, readers and stakeholders can leave comments and rates, which represents a big step towards transparency.
Arcellor Mital, represented by Meera Pau Mehta, illustrated the implementation of local CSR reporting, that is aimed to:
1. Engage local stakeholders and address local issues
2. Complement the Group corporate responsibility reporting
3. Support corporate responsibility accountability and performance improvements at a local level
Local reporting is not mandatory for Arcellor Mital subsidiaries, but highly encouraged: they’re provided with easy-to-use design templates and supported by workshops, webinars and good practices sharing within the group. In 2010, 11 local CR reports have been published in the Arcellor Mital group, and this number will without a doubt increase for the 2011 editions.
Future of Sustainability Reporting
Most of the panelists agreed on saying that the future of Sustainability Reporting will be online and using multi-media. Wizness is 100% aligned with this vision, and above all the following examples from the BBC.
Yogesh Chauhan, Chief Advisor CR , explained that the BBC Sustainability report reading rate increased from 23% to 60% by moving to what he calls a “Segmented Report”. But what is it exactly?
Their Segmented Report, following a year round reporting process, is quite different than a 100 pages PDF report, and includes:
o An annual performance report, with more facts and figures
o Supplements (Quarterly Updates)
o Monthly newsletters sent to stakeholders including metrics, performance targets, achievements…
Their goal is to increase the use of multi-media for a greater interaction with audiences. “PDF is a geeky document. Use other media” concluded Yogesh.
I couldn’t agree more.