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Sustainability Reporting & Communications: Simple & Pragmatic Wins the Day

Simple, Pragmatic and value-focused is key to Sustainability Measuring, Reporting, and Communication

Measuring and reporting is about value, about understanding it, about creating more of it and creating it more efficiently.  I don’t write about compliance-based reporting.  I leave that to others more qualified.

My guiding principle is Value.  How to use Impact Measurement and  Sustainability Reporting and Communications to drive value, impact, and results.

My approach is not prescriptive in terms of structure, content, and style. What is critically important is value.  Not compliance and not structure.  Sustainability reporting and impact measurement should add to value, not detract from it.

I don’t intend to replace structural frameworks like GRI, ESG, or other more compliance-based approaches.  They have their place.  There are often (but certainly not always) valid corporate reasons for using them.  

I try to speak broader issues of value, rather than simple, check the box, compliance.  To the needs of the on-the-ground and immediate stakeholders, internal and external, whose needs and interests are too often left out of the equation.

Sustainability reporting and metrics should flow from the project itself.  It should drive from the unique value propositions inherent in the project and the pragmatic needs and interests of key stakeholders.  Reporting and measuring should be about ensuring that value is created, and delivered efficiently.  Wherever possible they should facilitate value alignment and steer away from zero-sum approaches.

Ideally they should support and encourage a 360 degree value creation and measurement approach.  Value for society, for the planet, and for the business that is financing the project.

You ask “What process can be implemented to gather and record metrics for the programme of activity?”

There is no universal answer for that, nor should there be.  The process must be driven by the situational reality of the project, the key stakeholders and the value-propositions behind the project.

The process should be pragmatic.  Complexity is not your friend.  The data gathered and reported on should help participants and stakeholders understand the value that has been created.  It should help them to become more efficient in creating future value.

Your second question “What will be the reporting mechanism that can be adopted for both the wider activity: how would you collate structure and report on the macro level activity?”

I want to be clear that I am not speaking to compliance-based reporting and communications.  For the most part, each one has its own prescriptive structure and format.  Often they are of little or questionable value to the on-the-ground participants and stakeholders.  Many times, when you ask on the ground staff about compliance based reporting they will tell you it is frustrating and gets in the way of their other work.

That isn’t to say that compliance based reports are unimportant, or wrong.  But, the reality is that the value propositions for those reports are generally focused at higher corporate and organizational levels.

Reporting and communication must also create value for on-the-ground stakeholders and participants.  Again, I do imply that companies should not do the compliance-based reporting – but I certainly do advocate for them to look closely and ensure that it is meeting a real value and strategic need, and not just some check-the-box feeling of accomplishment for someone who is unclear of the relationship between social responsibility and value creation.

I’ve found these touchpoints to be key in developing and using sustainability communications and reporting to drive value.

➢ Be interesting

➢ Don’t be boring. Tell stories.  Make it interesting

➢ Focus on value, impact, and partners

➢Share the credit, liberally. Your company didn’t do it on your own

➢ Be honest

➢ Don’t brag. Be humble. Share credit (yes, I repeated it – it is that important)

➢ Be transparent about value to the company

➢ Don’t oversell. Be honest and acknowledge shortcomings.  Perfection     isn’t necessary

➢ Focus on issues, interests, and stakeholders, not the company

Sustainability measurement, reporting, and communications should be about value, not about check-the-box compliance.  It should be strategic, pragmatic and should support the value-propositions that led to the creation of the project in the first place.

CSR should be as much a business value driver as it is a social and environmental value driver. If it gets out of balance it creates risk and makes the CSR and indeed, even the business itself, potentially less sustainable.

Business is about creating value. CSR is also about creating value; value for society, for

environment and for shareholders.

Thanks for reading

Wayne Dunn

Founder and President

Prof. Wayne Dunn

Wayne Dunn is an award-winning global sustainability expert with extensive teaching, writing, lecturing and advisory service experience. He is supported by an extensive faculty and advisory team.