The sustainability report is in a transformational time. Companies collecting data and publishing well-designed, static PDF files (or still printing reports on glossy paper), will soon find themselves behind the curve.
The Global Reporting Initiative’s latest report, The Next Era of Corporate Disclosure: Digital, Responsible, Interactive questions the framework of the sustainability reporting process, asking tough questions about the presentation, quality, and availability of sustainability data being published.
The GRI report is both a roadmap and a prediction for how sustainability reporting will continue to change in the coming years, pushing organizations toward even more clarity, transparency, and responsiveness.
Instead of static information produced on an annual “look-back” basis, organizations will provide detailed information in dynamic, interactive digital formats on an ongoing basis. Stakeholders will be able to analyze and interact with data in more meaningful ways, pushing companies toward more environmentally and socially responsible decisions, with immediacy.
The GRI report is an exciting step, and just the first in GRI’s Sustainability and Reporting 2025 project aimed at “unlock[ing] the full value of sustainability performance data for decision makers,” said GRI chief executive Michael Meehan.
What does this mean for your 2016 sustainability report?
As the landscape of sustainability reporting shifts, companies can prepare now in a few meaningful ways:
- Commit to sustainability as part of a meaningful corporate strategy, not just as a response to pressure.
- Start with a materiality assessment to consider all impacts and their relative positions.
- Publish digitally, with a focus on clear information and accessible data.
- Seek third-party verification to validate findings.
- Avoid “filler” information that misleads or distracts from central social and environmental reporting issues.
CSR reporting leadership requires, we are already incorporating many of these practices into our clients’ sustainability reports: conducting materiality assessments, publishing reports digitally with downloadable data that can be manipulated, and following a standardized reporting methodology to ensure information is presented in a standardized way.
We look forward to a future where sustainability disclosure is less about data reporting and more about collective decision-making, driving whole industries and societies toward meaningful change on social and environmental metrics.
Are you ready for a next-generation sustainability report? Reach out to discuss sustainability strategy, disclosure, and meaningful progress on reducing social and environmental impact.
This article first appeared on Jennifer Woofter’s website Sustainability Consulting
Jennifer Woofter is the founder and president of Strategic Sustainability Consulting, a boutique firm specializing in helping rapidly growing mid-size businesses integrate sustainability into their business model. She tweets at @jenniferwoofter.