Five Reasons Your Business Needs a Sustainability Report

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Five Reasons Your Business Needs a Sustainability Report

Sustainability Reporting 101 - Part 1
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Why #sustainability reporting is a must: @EmotiveBrand explains in this new series on @3blmedia
Thursday, August 9, 2012 - 8:15pm

CAMPAIGN: Sustainability Reporting 101


Sadly, most American companies do not produce sustainability (or responsibility) reports. In fact, a recent study of sustainability reporting by the US Conference Board, Bloomberg, and the Global Reporting Initiative shows that only a tenth of the 1000 largest U.S. publicly listed companies effectively disclose sustainability data.

That’s unfortunate. I’ve seen firsthand the positive business impacts of reporting from inside a large, multinational company. In the course of collecting and reporting ESG (environmental, social and governance) data, the company I worked for was able to improve internal processes, save money, reduce environmental impacts, and improve perceptions in a tangible way. Not only that, our sustainability reports helped the company win new business from customers with green procurement principles.

If these kinds of benefits are available, why are so many companies taking a pass? I suspect it’s because U.S. business people often can’t see beneath the surface of sustainability reports. They see glossy photos of company volunteers and perplexing CO2 emissions data introduced by a hollow letter from the CEO. They view CSRs as a piece of communication, not evidence of hard thinking and a tighter grip on business processes. In short, they see an unnecessary use of company resources with little-to-no business value.

To be fair, there are plenty of reports that focus more on positive spin than nuts and bolts business issues. But smart managers understand the difference – and take competitive advantage of it. Good reporting can have real bottom-line business benefits in part because, as the saying goes, “what gets measured gets managed.” To take that a step further, what gets measured, managed, and reported can help companies in at least five concrete ways, including:

Improve Business Efficiency

Every business already collects data for internal management purposes. Most managers probably believe they already collect all the data they need without a sustainability report. That’s totally understandable. Why would you want to change processes and do the work to collect more data – which if it were really needed, would probably already be collected, right?

Maybe not. The rigor of sustainability reporting inevitably surfaces NEW information – previously unknown opportunities to improve efficiency. I’ve never met a business that didn’t want to improve efficiency. After all, if you use less energy, less water, and less paper to accomplish the same result, you lower your costs. That sounds like a bottom-line impact to me!

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Rebecca Treacy-Lenda, a Strategist at Emotive Brand, is an award winning communications professional with more than a decade of experience in corporate communications and public relations. Rebecca specializes in sustainability strategy and communications having managed the industry-leading UPS sustainability report for several years.

Rebecca is part of the team at Emotive Brand, an award-winning brand and design consultancy that transforms businesses by making brands matter more to people.