9. How can business and society prepare effectively for the impacts of climate change?
The physical impacts of climate change will redefine entire industries, such as agri-food, tourism and insurance – not to mention the industries that rely on them. What will climate change mean for companies and for society? Climate change was one of the Leadership Council’s first research topics.
In 2009, NBS studied the risks and opportunities associated with climate change across major sectors and the ways companies could adapt to it (see NBS’s Climate Change report). But despite widespread acceptance of the reality of climate sciences, the broader public remains largely unengaged and apathetic about the issue.
“Climate change is a recurrent theme in business conversations and is starting to overlap with other sustainability issues, such as carbon policy, water quality and sustainable supply chains.”
Senior Sustainability Issues Management Specialist
The conversation about climate change needs to broaden so people see the connection between their day-to-day actions and the broader issue. They need to understand how choices and actions today affect the future.
10. How can companies respond to the proliferation of voluntary and mandatory reporting requirements?
From global reporting standards to industry-specific measures, companies are spending significant time and resources reporting on their sustainability programs. This is leading to “reporting fatigue” on the part of organizations. Companies complete mandatory measurement and reporting for regulatory bodies on Environmental Health and Safety issues such as hazardous waste, permits, safety incidents and spills. They may publish their own annual or semi-annual Social Responsibility, Corporate Responsibility or Sustainability reports. And many large organizations (and, increasingly, small organizations) report through international, voluntary sustainability standards such as the Global Reporting Initiative, Carbon Disclosure Project, Dow Jones Sustainability Index, Bloomberg, SustainAlytics, FTSE4Good and Asset4.
“[Reporting] requires a significant investment of human resources and that time could be more effectively used implementing programs to reduce the impacts we do have.”
“We’re maxed out, trying to report on everything we do – whether it’s required from a regulatory perspective or voluntary,” said Brenda Goehring of BC Hydro. “It requires a significant investment of human resources and that time could be more effectively used implementing programs to reduce the impacts we do have.”
Many investors and analysts require different data to assess companies’ environmental and/or social responsibility. One analyst or index may focus on ethical business practices, another on diversity and yet another on environmental performance. Canadian companies want some kind of simplified or standardized reporting function for sustainability. They want to help investors and analysts ask the right questions about sustainability metrics that are material. And they ultimately want to spend more time pursuing sustainability activities than measuring and reporting on them.
“We’ve issued eight annual sustainability reports to date, but this year we want to do something different,” said Grete Bridgewater of Canadian Pacific. “We want to understand what investors are looking for and deliver what they need. We’re eager to help educate them about the questions that are material to our business.”