So what exactly is a sustainability report? Also known as the triple bottom line report or corporate social responsibility report, these reports highlight the sustainability initiatives of a business or organization and are usually targeted to investors, stakeholders and the public. The first of these was issued in the 1980s by companies in the chemical industry, which needed help with their public image regarding environmental and sustainability issues. These reports gave companies an opportunity to help repair that image by sharing their successes with green initiatives.
One of the most commonly used standards for sustainability reporting is from the impartial, non-profit Global Reporting Initiative, or GRI. According to GRI, “A sustainability report is an organizational report that gives information about economic, environmental, social and governance performance” and “Establishing a sustainability reporting process helps [organizations] to set goals, measure performance, and manage change.” Like with regular financial reports, regular sustainability reporting can give company leadership and investors a sense of the organization’s trending, accomplishments and challenges in living out its sustainability mission.
We believe that sustainability reporting is important especially for larger companies and organizations. When an organization reports on sustainability progress as well as the financial, social and environmental measures and returns, an organization can then fully understand the operational importance of sustainability initiatives and make that important connection with your company’s bottom line. Further, sustainability reporting can be helpful in creating a positive green perspective on your company’s image and brand.
For small to medium sized businesses, formal sustainability reporting may not be necessary. However, developing a good communication plan around sustainability is still vital to educating your internal and external stakeholders.