5 Takeaways from the Newly Established Global Compact Network Canada Peer-Review Reporting Program

UN_Global_Compact

By Megan Wallingford and Anastasia Ostapchuk of GCNC

Canadian companies identify 5 takeaways from the Global Compact Network Canada Reporting Peer-Review Program. 

This July, eight Canadian companies successfully completed the inaugural Global Compact Network Canada (GCNC) Reporting Peer Review Program.  We are delighted to announce that the winners of the first Canadian Peer-Choice Reporting Award are Teck Resources (Group 1) and BMO, Enbridge (tied for first place in Group 2)!

“At Teck, we have a longstanding commitment to sustainability, and reporting helps us achieve our commitments through transparency and accountability,” said Jacqueline Go, Sustainability Programs Coordinator at Teck. “The landscape for reporting is rapidly evolving and there is always room for improving the rigour and quality of reporting. Participating in activities like the Global Compact’s Peer Review Process is a great way to receive feedback while also learning from other companies. Receiving the Peer Review Award helped to confirm that the steps we are taking to improve our reporting are moving us in the right direction.”

“Feedback plays an important part in BMO’s reporting process as we are always looking for ways to improve,” said Suzanne Duncan, Manager, ESG, BMO Financial Group. “Our involvement with the Global Compact Network Canada and especially the Peer Review Program gives us a unique opportunity to collaborate, share and learn.”

“It’s rewarding to see how much sustainability reporting influences Enbridge to improve its sustainability performance,” said MaryAnn Kenney, Manager, CSR & Sustainability Reporting, Enbridge. “So, the better we get at sustainability reporting, the better we perform. For that reason, we greatly appreciated the opportunity to participate in the Global Compact Network Canada’s Peer Review Process. The feedback we received will help us improve our reporting and performance.”

Our Reporting Peer-Review Program is based on a model developed and tested by the Global Compact local networks in the UK, Nordic countries, and the Netherlands. “The purpose of our program is to share best practices in sustainability reporting and improve the level of sustainability reporting in Canada” explains Helle Bank Jorgensen, Head of the Global Compact Network Canada.

Our inaugural program was launched with eight Canadian companies participating.  Over the course of several weeks, participating companies were divided into two peer review groups, exchanged sustainability reports, and anonymously provided feedback using a guiding feedback template created by our local network team. Reviewers also assigned an overall score to each report in their group, which was tallied to determine the winners of the Peer-Choice Reporting Award (one for each Peer Review Group).

We had a fantastic group of multi-sector Canadian companies participating.  Some companies even engaged several of their reporting team members in the review program.  We encourage you to check out the sustainability reports for participating companies:

Our program concluded with a round-table discussion where companies shared their general feedback and reflections on the process, and the announcement of the Peer-Choice Reporting Award.  During the round table session participants identified 5 takeaways:

1. Use multiple communication mediums to share sustainability information:  

As stakeholder demand for information on corporate sustainability performance increases, sustainability information must be delivered through multiple channels. The reality is that all companies have a diverse set of stakeholders that consume information differently. With this in mind, participating companies identified the best practice of reporting on sustainability via both a stand-alone PDF report as well as a company created sustainability website. Sustainability information should also appear throughout the corporate website and in other communications.

2. Use interactive reports and graphics to increase the accessibility, conciseness, and user-friendliness of sustainability reports:

A common challenge for a reporting company is striking a balance between producing a comprehensive report, while ensuring the report is concise and navigable. The group identified several good practices to achieve this balance. First, using interactive PDF reports that link to external sources of information and interactive indexes minimizes report length and reduces information repetition, while at the same time provides users with access to all relevant information. Second, using design, images and graphics to enhance the meaning of information makes a report more consumable for the average reader.

3.  Report specific and defined performance measures and goals, and provide context to sustainability data:

A major frustration for report readers is the difficulty of comparing sustainability information over time and between companies. The participants identified several ways to improve this aspect: ensure that sustainability performance measures and goals are specific and quantitative when possible; ensure measurement methodologies are well-defined; provide several years of historical data, indicating the yearly progress on goals; and benchmarking performance against multi-year goals.

4. Communicate not only the good, but also the bad, and the ugly:

According to a recent study conducted by the WBCSD, balanced sustainability reporting can help build stakeholder trust, while unbalanced reporting can undermine the credibility of a report and ultimately harm a company’s reputation. While stakeholders are demanding greater corporate transparency, most companies struggle in achieving a balance in reporting on positive and negative sustainability performance. Participants noted that this is a key area of improvement for Canadian companies and that so far, there are very few companies who do this well.

5. Engage in a peer-review process to assess the effectiveness of their sustainability reporting and validate internal assessments of report strengths and weaknesses:

Participants expressed that by allowing peer and non-peer companies to review their sustainability report, they are able to validate the accuracy of their internal assessment of strengths and weakness of their report.  It is both an opportunity to identify and reaffirm the gaps and opportunities within their sustainability reports.

Here’s what some of the participants expressed about the process:

“This kind of in-depth feedback from peers and non-peers is very helpful for improving the quality and content of our report going forward”

– Stephanie Berger, Senior Manager Corporate Responsibility & Environment, Bell Canada

 “We found this a valuable, effective way to get feedback on our CSR Report from corporate peers who understand the standards for good quality CSR reporting…we all skim through CSR reports, this process pushes you to do a thorough, in-depth review and compare them to your own.”

– Yolanda Banks, Senior Advisor Corporate Social Responsibility, EDC

“Facilitating business to business communication is an important tool to help companies improve their CSR reporting and disclosure, as well as ensure the information provided is meaningful. The UNGC Peer Review Process is an effective mechanism for collaborative learning. Scotiabank would certainly participate in future initiatives as the Bank actively looks for opportunities to receive feedback through multi stakeholder dialogue”.

Scotiabank

Did you miss the program this time around, but are eager to participate?  You are in luck!  Due to demand, we will be hosting a second session in early Fall 2014.  If your company is interested in participating please contact Megan Wallingford via email at Wallingford@globalcompact.ca.

This article was originally posted on the UN Global Compact Canada Website
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Megan Wallingford is a Program Officer at Global Compact Network Canada and a consultant at B. Accountability.  You can follow Megan on twitter here @meganw_ and @UNGCCanada

Anastasia Ostapchuk is an Associate Co-ordinator at Global Compact Network Canada and a Junior Consultant at B. Accountability. You can follow Anastasia on twitter here @AnaOstap and @UNGCCanada