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Executive Report: Sustainability Reporting

How to move from reports to reporting ? The sustainability reporting playbook. Integration with strategy means that firms are focused on collecting data and reporting information that is “material”

Leaders at Canadian organizations asked NBS: “How can we find innovative ways of communicating the right information at the right time to the right stakeholders?”

Increasingly, the requirements for sustainability reporting seem to be increasing, but the benefits of this increased commitment aren’t always visible. These leaders wanted to know how sustainability reporting could provide greatest benefit to company and stakeholders.

In response, NBS selected a team of researchers led by Dr. Jodi York (University of Melbourne, Australia) to identify a path to more effective sustainability reporting. With direction from a Guidance Committee comprising academic and industry experts, the team reviewed published best practices and the experiences of seven Canadian companies. Their insights provide clear direction for firms.

Integrate Reporting and Strategy 

Formal sustainability reports should be an important part of a larger “reporting” platform for understanding and communicating organizational performance, rather than the production of a sustainability report as an end in itself.

Marcelo Lu, President, BASF Canada, explains: “For us, the sustainability report is a tool. It requires the organization to gather ideas and learning spread across departments. By undertaking this exercise, you get a complete picture of sustainability — and the ability to plan for the future.”

Integration with strategy means that firms are focused on collecting data and reporting information that is “material” (important to decision making). Sustainability reporting can then help an organization understand its current and future impacts on the economy, society, and the environment. Reporting becomes more credible and valuable to the firm and its stakeholders.

View Reporting as a Cycle

It’s not just a linear process of gathering inputs and producing an output. Good sustainability reporting is a cyclical process that involves all functions in an organization, and feeds back to inform future strategy. The Effective Reporting Framework in the Playbook (Figure 1, below) shows the different stages of this process.


Figure 1. Effective Reporting Framework


Follow Tips for Success

Previous resources have provided guidance primarily on what a report should contain — i.e. information that is credible, balanced, comparable, and integrated with strategy. The Sustainability Reporting Playbook delves deeper in how organizations are achieving these desirable characteristics. At each stage, specific actions can lead to success. The Playbook identifies those necessary steps.

What’s Included in the Playbook

  • The Effective Reporting Framework, detailing the stages of the reporting process

  • Deeper dives into how to achieve reporting goals. The Playbook provides tips for specific stages: compiling, dissemination and engagement, and outcomes and impact evaluation

  • Quizzes to assess your organization’s current performance

  • An overview of the Canadian context for reporting

  • Mini-cases and quotes to illustrate diverse organizations’ reporting experiences.

Use This Playbook If You Are a: 

  • Sustainability manager wanting to improve your organization’s sustainability reporting process and outcomes, and to put sustainability on your company’s strategic agenda.

  • Business leader interested in understanding how sustainability reporting can support strategy implementation and better business practices.

  • Public relations/communications manager looking to leverage sustainability reporting to enhance your organization’s brand and reputation.

  • Investor interested in better understanding organizations’ reporting process, and how organizations address critical environmental and societal topics, and can align this information with financial reporting risk disclosures.


More Project Outputs

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  • NBS

    The Network for Business Sustainability (NBS) is a non-profit advancing sustainable development to build a fairer and more environmentally sound future. We aim to improve business practice by facilitating knowledge sharing across an international community of business leaders, scholars, students and policy makers. With these stakeholders, we co-create high-quality content that enables practical action. Our content focuses on 6 critical sustainability themes, from climate change to social justice.

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